There is greatness in this New York Times interview with author Jonathan Lethem - and lots of it.
He nominates Ronald Hugh Morrieson as one of his “most overlooked or underappreciated writers”.
He puts the boot into a classic. “Based on other things I like, people keep insisting I read Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita.” Each time I try, I discover an allegory of Russian politics, both labored and coy, starring Lucifer and a black cat — just about what I’d least wish to read in the world.”
He puts books down if they ain’t working for him (Amen to that):
“In the matter of putting things down unfinished, I’m too old now not to do it all the time, when something’s not working. No harm, no foul, just mutual détente. As for the classics unread, in that too I try to leave shame out of my game. The existence of vastly more great books than I can ever hope to read is a primary locus of joy in this life, and weight on the scale in favor of human civilization.”
Jonathan Lethem, By the book in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.
Think of writing = a palimpsest, a parchment where earlier layers of writing of whatever nature were scraped off and replaced by whatever scribes of the time thought more important. Again and again…
For me, layers equal a stratigraphy of time – and, especially, of the layering of memories.
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex."
This is the first sentence of Scum Manifesto. If there is a more exhilarating start to any political tract, I’m damned if I know it. I won’t pretend to talk about Scum Manifesto with much objectivity. As far as I can see, the only reason that I might ever deign to go on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (an imminent possibility, obviously) would be so that I could ask Sue Lawley if I could take Scum Manifesto to the island, to make me realize what I was missing - precisely zilch. The thing is, you either happen to think this is a work of unadulterated genius, or you dismiss it as the ravings of a loony psycho-bitch, not understanding that this is exactly what makes it so compelling and so charged with insight.
First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet?
My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick …
I think of my novels as being something like fairground rides: my job is to strap the reader into their car at the start of chapter one, then trundle and whizz them through scenes and surprises, on a carefully planned route, and at a finely engineered pace.
Prayer might work. Or reading something else. Or a constant visualisation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.
Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.
… remember how much time people spend watching TV. If you’re writing a novel with a contemporary setting there need to be long passages where nothing happens save for TV watching: “Later, George watched Grand Designs while eating HobNobs. Later still he watched the shopping channel for a while …”