It’s a fantastic privilege to spend three or four hundred pages with a reader. You have time to go into certain questions that are painful or difficult or complicated. That’s one thing that appeals to me very much about the novel form.
When I used to teach civil procedure as a law professor, I would begin the year by telling my students that ‘civil procedure is the etiquette of ritualized battle.’ The phrase, which did not originate with me, captured the point that peaceful, developed societies resolve disputes by law rather than by force.
We should be proud of our country when we have done something to be proud of, when we have lived up to our own standards. But the flip side of genuine pride is being able to recognize when we have fallen short, and to hold ourselves to account.
Fiction allows you to embody certain ideas and give them an emotional reality. The characters allow you to get close viscerally to an idea.
There should be a democracy of voices in literature. There are people who live with a kind of striving and with a certain kind of tenderness – it’s not an unusual thing – and maybe that’s not written about enough.
I’m not being naive; I realise there’s no such thing as a pure reading. But I’d rather keep myself as far out of it as I can.
Someone must transform income into the food, shelter, clothing, nurture, discipline, education, minding, nursing, transportation, and emotional support that creates life outside of the office, permits survival of the race, cares for the ill and disabled, and makes life livable when we can no longer care for ourselves.
I really believe we read differently when we know even the most banal facts of an author’s life.
What mothers need, as well as fathers, spouses, and the children of aging parents, is an entire national infrastructure of care, every bit as important as the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, broadband, parks and public works.
Certain things can’t be approximated, so I’m always interested in getting in another way, one which makes the reader bend in closer to the scene even if that scene, especially if that scene, is painful… Brutal language isn’t necessarily the most truthful way of describing a brutal moment.