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Best of Reading interviews 2001-2002

Mark Halperin, V.S. Naipaul, Janet Malcolm, Alice McDermott, and more

McClatchy: "Poetry in the 20th Century deliberately became more obscure and inaccessible and thorny."

JD McClatchy

"And I think now in the last 10 or 20 years, there’s been a quite remarkable resurgence and readings and performances of high and low quality, from hip-hop or slams and whatnot, to these kinds of quite brilliant readings. And it still remains, even listening to it on these tapes, a very private experience. It’s in a culture so dominated by talk shows and MTV and whatnot, that the kind of intimacy that a poem allows.”

Mark Halperin: "One test that you’ve written something honestly is feeling that you don’t want to show it to the person it’s about.”

May 3, 2001 | Read full interview

Mark Halperin

My mother was worried about me when I wanted to go to Russia; she thought it was a dangerous place, so she would ask me why I was going. The first time I said it was so that when I saw my father in heaven, I could speak Russian to him. She had no doubt where my father was, but she asked me, ‘What makes you think you’re going to heaven?’

Sept. 6, 2001 | Read full interview

Edna St. Vincent Millay. "She made poetry seem so easy that we could all do it. But, of course, we couldn’t.”

Milford on Millay

After Millay’s death in 1950, her sister Norma and Norma’s husband moved into Edna’s home. Norma would live there for the next 36 years, until her death in 1986. Norma kept Edna’s bedroom and all that was in it precisely as Edna had left it. She did not even hang her clothes in Edna’s closet; she hung her clothes on the shower curtain rod in the bathroom that adjoined Edna’s bedroom.

Oct. 11, 2001 | Read full interview

Brenna: "I put my mother in a home, in La Mesa. She wasn’t doing too badly there, but then she started to wander."

Duff Brenna

“When Buck’s pumped up, he looks about as good as he’s ever looked....”

“His sweat, you wrote, was like icing or frosting?”

“Like sugar glaze. So he’s been pumping himself up and looking in the mirror, and he said, ‘I’m beautiful, you know.’ And then they express that love that they have at that moment. But then the body itself breaks down; the whole course of the book is an exploration of that, what happens to us.”

Oct. 25, 2001 | Read full interview

Naipaul. It was 6:30 on the West Coast. Mr. Naipaul answered the telephone. He asked in peevish tones who I was and why I was calling.

V.S. Naipaul

Naipaul, on one October after another, witnessed the Nobel’s crown placed on other heads, including that of another Trinidadian, the poet Derek Walcott, who won the prize in 1992. Paul Theroux writing in Sir Vidia’s Shadow (1998), the memoir about his friendship with Naipaul and that friendship’s end quotes Naipaul as saying at those times, “The Nobel committee are doing it again, as they do every year. Pissing on literature. Pissing from a great height.”

Dec. 6, 2001 | Read full interview

Janet Malcolm: "I was fortunate in not having read too many of the Chekhov stories in my callow youth."

Janet Malcolm on Chekhov

Etiquette among German doctors required that “a doctor at a colleague’s deathbed, when all hope was gone, should offer champagne.”) But in Callow’s telling, Chekhov’s doctor orders champagne from a telephone set in an alcove. In Callow’s version, another new detail materializes: a fair-haired waiter appears. “The champagne arrived, brought to the door by a young porter who looked as if he’d been sleeping. His fair hair stood up, his uniform was creased, his jacket half-buttoned.s book and sign copies at Borders Books & Music in Mission Valley on Wednesday, June 14, a

Dec. 20, 2001 | Read full interview

Rick Moody: “It was an incredibly fertile time to be at Brown University. I could reel off six or eight people in my class, or the class above me, who won National Book Awards."

Rick Moody

There were at least four fiction writers of national reputation there. Jeffrey Eugenides, who wrote The Virgin Suicides, was there; Donald Antrim, who’s written several novels — The Verificationist, The Hundred Brothers; Edward Ball, who won the National Book Award for nonfiction a couple of years ago for Slaves in the Family, Todd Haynes, the filmmaker who made Safe and Velvet Goldmine and other films. And there’s also his producer Christine Vachon, who produced I Shot Andy Warhol.

Sept. 5, 2002 | Read full interview

Francine Prose's 1981 novel Household Saints in 1993 was made into a movie starring Tracey Ullman.

Francine Prose

“When I was doing the final two chapters, the Suzanne Farrell and the Yoko Ono, I had videotapes, which was great. They were useful. Suzanne Farrell, as a dancer, was so different. She really kind of blew everybody else out of the water. Once she came along, Balanchine’s world could take a turn that it hadn’t been able to take before that, because she was completely different. And she was very, very self-determined.”

Oct. 3, 2002 | Read full interview

Paul Auster: "I think people become writers because they love reading as children."

Paul Auster

“Absolutely. I think a very good school to go to if you want to become a writer is to translate good writers, because it’s a way of penetrating a text more thoroughly than just reading it or even writing about it or thinking about it. You have to go into the bloodstream and the bone structure of the piece. You’ve got to break it all down, and then you’ve got to rebuild it.”

Oct. 10, 2002 | Read full interview

Pat Conroy: "General Mark Clark decided he was going to have the Citadel with the toughest plebe system in the world."

Pat Conroy

“When I wrote the short story The Legend’ that senior year, my coach screamed at me, went nuts, he just screamed and went crazy. That was the first time in my life a fictional character was recognized by somebody who saw themselves in it and went crazy. But it also was the great liberation out of myself; I knew that writing was going to free me from that family, free me from that college.”

Nov. 14, 2002 | Read full interview

Alice McDermott: "We lived in La Jolla for five years, from 1984 to 1989. And soon after we arrived, I showed up in the UCSD English department and said, ‘Anything I can do?’ "

Alice McDermott

“My 14-year-old, this summer, when I was going over the proofs for this while we were on summer vacation, picked up the first few manuscript pages as we were sitting out by the ocean. She read it through. She was talking to me about something, and all of a sudden she stopped and she said, ‘You know, it is true, there is no misanthrope like a chubby misanthrope.’”

Dec. 2, 2002 | Read full interview

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McClatchy: "Poetry in the 20th Century deliberately became more obscure and inaccessible and thorny."

JD McClatchy

"And I think now in the last 10 or 20 years, there’s been a quite remarkable resurgence and readings and performances of high and low quality, from hip-hop or slams and whatnot, to these kinds of quite brilliant readings. And it still remains, even listening to it on these tapes, a very private experience. It’s in a culture so dominated by talk shows and MTV and whatnot, that the kind of intimacy that a poem allows.”

Mark Halperin: "One test that you’ve written something honestly is feeling that you don’t want to show it to the person it’s about.”

May 3, 2001 | Read full interview

Mark Halperin

My mother was worried about me when I wanted to go to Russia; she thought it was a dangerous place, so she would ask me why I was going. The first time I said it was so that when I saw my father in heaven, I could speak Russian to him. She had no doubt where my father was, but she asked me, ‘What makes you think you’re going to heaven?’

Sept. 6, 2001 | Read full interview

Edna St. Vincent Millay. "She made poetry seem so easy that we could all do it. But, of course, we couldn’t.”

Milford on Millay

After Millay’s death in 1950, her sister Norma and Norma’s husband moved into Edna’s home. Norma would live there for the next 36 years, until her death in 1986. Norma kept Edna’s bedroom and all that was in it precisely as Edna had left it. She did not even hang her clothes in Edna’s closet; she hung her clothes on the shower curtain rod in the bathroom that adjoined Edna’s bedroom.

Oct. 11, 2001 | Read full interview

Brenna: "I put my mother in a home, in La Mesa. She wasn’t doing too badly there, but then she started to wander."

Duff Brenna

“When Buck’s pumped up, he looks about as good as he’s ever looked....”

“His sweat, you wrote, was like icing or frosting?”

“Like sugar glaze. So he’s been pumping himself up and looking in the mirror, and he said, ‘I’m beautiful, you know.’ And then they express that love that they have at that moment. But then the body itself breaks down; the whole course of the book is an exploration of that, what happens to us.”

Oct. 25, 2001 | Read full interview

Naipaul. It was 6:30 on the West Coast. Mr. Naipaul answered the telephone. He asked in peevish tones who I was and why I was calling.

V.S. Naipaul

Naipaul, on one October after another, witnessed the Nobel’s crown placed on other heads, including that of another Trinidadian, the poet Derek Walcott, who won the prize in 1992. Paul Theroux writing in Sir Vidia’s Shadow (1998), the memoir about his friendship with Naipaul and that friendship’s end quotes Naipaul as saying at those times, “The Nobel committee are doing it again, as they do every year. Pissing on literature. Pissing from a great height.”

Dec. 6, 2001 | Read full interview

Janet Malcolm: "I was fortunate in not having read too many of the Chekhov stories in my callow youth."

Janet Malcolm on Chekhov

Etiquette among German doctors required that “a doctor at a colleague’s deathbed, when all hope was gone, should offer champagne.”) But in Callow’s telling, Chekhov’s doctor orders champagne from a telephone set in an alcove. In Callow’s version, another new detail materializes: a fair-haired waiter appears. “The champagne arrived, brought to the door by a young porter who looked as if he’d been sleeping. His fair hair stood up, his uniform was creased, his jacket half-buttoned.s book and sign copies at Borders Books & Music in Mission Valley on Wednesday, June 14, a

Dec. 20, 2001 | Read full interview

Rick Moody: “It was an incredibly fertile time to be at Brown University. I could reel off six or eight people in my class, or the class above me, who won National Book Awards."

Rick Moody

There were at least four fiction writers of national reputation there. Jeffrey Eugenides, who wrote The Virgin Suicides, was there; Donald Antrim, who’s written several novels — The Verificationist, The Hundred Brothers; Edward Ball, who won the National Book Award for nonfiction a couple of years ago for Slaves in the Family, Todd Haynes, the filmmaker who made Safe and Velvet Goldmine and other films. And there’s also his producer Christine Vachon, who produced I Shot Andy Warhol.

Sept. 5, 2002 | Read full interview

Francine Prose's 1981 novel Household Saints in 1993 was made into a movie starring Tracey Ullman.

Francine Prose

“When I was doing the final two chapters, the Suzanne Farrell and the Yoko Ono, I had videotapes, which was great. They were useful. Suzanne Farrell, as a dancer, was so different. She really kind of blew everybody else out of the water. Once she came along, Balanchine’s world could take a turn that it hadn’t been able to take before that, because she was completely different. And she was very, very self-determined.”

Oct. 3, 2002 | Read full interview

Paul Auster: "I think people become writers because they love reading as children."

Paul Auster

“Absolutely. I think a very good school to go to if you want to become a writer is to translate good writers, because it’s a way of penetrating a text more thoroughly than just reading it or even writing about it or thinking about it. You have to go into the bloodstream and the bone structure of the piece. You’ve got to break it all down, and then you’ve got to rebuild it.”

Oct. 10, 2002 | Read full interview

Pat Conroy: "General Mark Clark decided he was going to have the Citadel with the toughest plebe system in the world."

Pat Conroy

“When I wrote the short story The Legend’ that senior year, my coach screamed at me, went nuts, he just screamed and went crazy. That was the first time in my life a fictional character was recognized by somebody who saw themselves in it and went crazy. But it also was the great liberation out of myself; I knew that writing was going to free me from that family, free me from that college.”

Nov. 14, 2002 | Read full interview

Alice McDermott: "We lived in La Jolla for five years, from 1984 to 1989. And soon after we arrived, I showed up in the UCSD English department and said, ‘Anything I can do?’ "

Alice McDermott

“My 14-year-old, this summer, when I was going over the proofs for this while we were on summer vacation, picked up the first few manuscript pages as we were sitting out by the ocean. She read it through. She was talking to me about something, and all of a sudden she stopped and she said, ‘You know, it is true, there is no misanthrope like a chubby misanthrope.’”

Dec. 2, 2002 | Read full interview

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