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Comment from the book world in November 2020

November 2020

'Why does the writer write?'

16 November 2020

'Why does the writer write? The writer writes to serve - hopelessly he writes in the hope that he might serve - not himself and not others, but that great cold elemental grace which knows us.

A writer I very much admire is Don DeLillo. At an awards ceremony for him at the Folger Library several years ago, I said that he was like a great shark moving hidden in our midst, beneath the din and wreck of the moment, at apocalyptic ease in the very elements of our psyche and times that are most troublesome to us, that we most fear.

Why do I write? Because I wanna be a great shark too. Another shark. A different shark, in a different part of the ocean. The ocean is vast.'

Joy Williams, author of The Visiting Privilege, The Quick and the Dead, Ill Nature, State of Grace and The Changeling


'Culture is what's left when you've forgotten everything'

9 November 2020

‘We can't really take in everything we read in a book. When you think about what you remember of a book a month or a year later, it's a distillation - sometimes you remember an image or a scene or a moment in the plot, or an idea in an essay. You don't actively remember the entire experience, at least not consciously. My father used to say that culture is what's left when you've forgotten everything...

What we retain from our reading is that it's all there. It comes back to Proust and his madeleine - you don't know what moment will bring you back experiences or memories, whether they're things you've lived or things you've read.'

Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children, The Burning Girl, The Last Life and The Woman Upstairs in the Observer