Hello, my name is Tom, and I’m a writer interview junkie. In fact, I get all tingly when I stumble across interviews with favored writers (though I also read the interviews with writers I don’t much care for).
On the interview front, today is a very good day.
Stephen King On Writing (and Critics)
I’m old enough to remember when Stephen King was first raised from obscurity by the story/movie Carrie. He produces books at about the same rate Toyota produces cars, and his On Writing is one of the handful of writing books claiming space on my shelf.
King has always proven tremendously popular with readers (something like 350 million books sold), though he’s often been dismissed by critics as a “genre” writer. It apparently still rankles King, who touched on the subject in this Rolling Stone interview:
A lot of critics were pretty brutal to you when you were starting out.
Early in my career, The Village Voice did a caricature of me that hurts even today when I think about it. It was a picture of me eating money. I had this big, bloated face. It was this assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. If something is accessible to a lot of people, it’s got to be dumb because most people are dumb. And that’s elitist. I don’t buy it.
But that attitude continues to this day. Literary critic Harold Bloom viciously ripped into you when you won the National Book Award about 10 years ago.
Bloom never pissed me off because there are critics out there, and he’s one of them, who take their ignorance about popular culture as a badge of intellectual prowess. He might be able to say that Mark Twain is a great writer, but it’s impossible for him to say that there’s a direct line of descent from, say, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Jim Thompson because he doesn’t read guys like Thompson. He just thinks, “I never read him, but I know he’s terrible.”
Michiko Kakutani, who writes reviews for The New York Times, is the same way. She’ll review a book like David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which is one of the best novels of the year. It’s as good as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, has the same kind of deep literary resonance. But because it has elements of fantasy and science fiction, Kakutani doesn’t want to understand it. In that sense, Bloom and Kakutani and a number of gray eminences in literary criticism are like children who say, “I can’t possibly eat this meal because the different kinds of food are touching on the plate!”
You can read the whole interview here.
The Nick Hornby Audio Interview
Ever since Fever Pitch, I’ve read everything written by Nick Hornby, and he’s currently making the interview rounds to support his upcoming book Funny Girl — a novel based in 1960s England. Hornby’s also been writing screenplays (his screen adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is due out soon).
Here’s a 17-minute interview on SoundCloud.
For those whose lips don’t get overtired when they read, the Telegraph also ran a sizable printed interview with Hornby. Note how Hornby is also talking about the literary establishment and its attendant snobbery — and how that kind of thinking hurts the industry rather than helps it.
Enjoy the interviews. And remember — the concept of “thank you” is best conveyed via cash or untraceable bearer bonds.
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.