"Any more than will a data-entry job."

"Right. That's why I have taught and, up until recently, have not felt guilty about teaching. Because I always did feel that if the person's not a writer, the MFA program isn't going to make them one, but by the same token, if they are one, the MFA Program isn't going to stop them. I do think it's possible to come across a student that's on your wavelength who can learn something from you.

"I still believe that what I said is true. Something that bothers me more about the MFA programs is that I think that they created a climate regardless of what the talent level of the student is; that's the opposite of what nurtures a writer. If someone is working on their own outside of an MFA program, which is how people did it for centuries, they're always aware that they're taking a big risk in their life, and that they're alone, that there isn't anyone to guide them through it. They have supportive friends, or they may even join a writing circle, but still those things don't have the imprimatur of an official approval or an institutional support.

"I think when somebody goes into a writing program, even if they're smart, even if they know this degree doesn't mean 'I'm a writer,' the fact that they're going to a graduate program, which historically means in any other field that once they get out they'll have a degree that makes them a doctor or a lawyer, is not a great idea. Even a smart person, therefore, can go through a program like that and get the degree and consciously tell themselves, 'This doesn't mean I'm a writer,' but they still do think that. And they're (1) set up for a lot of disappointment and (2) it's, like, they're no longer in the mindset of being outside an institutional system and taking their own risks. It's like a mentality of already buying into something because they took the course. It's a deadly mentality, even if the person is very bright and very talented."

"When I think of a 'real' writer, I will think, for instance, of Kerouac in '46, when he was working on The Town and the City. Each morning he would kneel before his desk and ask God to help him to write."

"I still do that sometimes."

"He would cut himself sometimes and write on the wall. In his journals, he wrote, as do many writers, of the claustrophobic loneliness of the writing room and then going out-of-doors and feeling painfully assailed by every sight, sound, odor, touch. He would feel as if he had no skin. Nobody can teach you to have no skin."

"This last group of students I had was actually quite good. They were interested in talking about that subject of looking at things and trying to see what something is. But it was foreign to what they had been thinking of before, how they thought of writing."

"Why did you name her Veronica?"

"From the beginning that was the title of it. People will read it differently. Friends who've looked at it, the thing I noticed was that to some of them Allison was by far the more interesting character. They may not have liked her as a person, but their feeling response was mainly toward her. With other people, their feeling response was toward Veronica; they were more interested in her. To me, the book is about Veronica. Allison is obviously important because you're seeing everything through her, but I can't answer it other than that.

"What's significant and what was tricky about writing the novel was I worried I was putting too much weight on what was in fact a relatively small relationship in her life. But to me sometimes those relationships, even if they're small by the usual standard of things, they can be important if they change the people involved. Veronica, even though Allison's relationship with her may have been peculiar and small, in some ways is changed and changed in a way she's not completely aware of when she's young. But then when she's older and has a deeper understanding, she understands Veronica's position better in a way. She's become softer by being worn away."

"Certain scenes in the book frightened me."

"Which ones?"

"When Allison was coming home late, in both New York and Paris, and the streets were dark. And the S&M club scenes scared me. I felt I could hear screams. Awful."

Ms. Gaitskill did not disagree. "That scene where I describe the man crawling on the floor, I actually saw that once. I saw it a long time ago, but it stayed with me. I know that's probably a terrible thing to admit, you should never admit you're basing something on something you actually saw. But in this instance, it popped out of my mouth. It was like the most disturbing thing because it almost wasn't...it almost wasn't about sex, I didn't think.

"To me it was a picture of an obsession that had been completely wrung dry of any juice. Like obsessions can seem -- it doesn't even feel wonderful because they're juicy and dripping with feeling. But once all that is wrung out, to have that horrible compulsion without any feeling to it at all, that's what I was looking at when I was looking at that guy. It was scary and sad. I felt terrible for him."

" Veronica, with Allison in her youth as a glossy, elegant model, and in old age as broken and unattractive, seems a book about appearance and reality."

"I don't know if I can give a very intelligent comment on that, but I know that it is important to me thematically in much of what I write, but in this book certainly.

"I actually started it, the book...I did a draft of it in the early '90s. That's when suddenly models were invented, when the whole country was completely obsessed with models. So that was one reason I picked it, simply because it was in my face all the time. But I think it was an extreme contrast between the world that Allison finds herself in when she's older and also a world of the condition that Veronica is in.

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