A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.
And then because of the success of that damn book, suddenly I have to do another book, and another book and another book. I’m not somebody who’s set out to be a novelist per se. It just happened to be the clearest success I’ve had. I didn’t want to be trapped into just sitting in a room typing. It’s not the life I have envisaged for myself–sitting in a room typing for year after year. I kind of wanted to do something that would be…I’d get to work with a lot people, have a lot of fun, have a lot of meetings, have lots of brainstorming, lots of clever people around. I’ve also a chance to get a lot of toys. So that’s what this was. It was a kind of mid-life crisis project.
The task of writing an autobiography is a difficult one. When I try to classify my earliest impressions, I find that fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present. The woman paints the child’s experiences in her own fantasy. A few impressions stand out vividly from the first years of my life; but “the shadows of the prison-house are on the rest.”
It’s funny when you’ve got to sit down and write something that’s funny you think “Oh God…” That terrible need to be funny all the time. And when you’ve got to do something serious “Now hang on, wouldn’t it be funny if we did this…” I remember my history master at high school used to send back my essays saying “Adams please, more facts and less jokes.”
He is a writer. He makes the rest of them nervous.
If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you copy from two, it’s research.
If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
With a novelist, like a surgeon, you have to get a feeling that you’ve fallen into good hands – someone from whom you can accept the anesthetic with confidence.
“Lord!” he said, “when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night — there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean. Jiminy! If I were the baker or the butcher or the broom huckster, people would run to the gate when I came by — just waiting for my stuff. And here I go loaded with everlasting salvation — yes, ma’am, salvation for their little, stunted minds — and it’s hard to make ’em see it. That’s what makes it worth while — I’m doing something that nobody else from Nazareth, Maine, to Walla Walla, Washington, has ever thought of. It’s a new field, but by the bones of Whitman, it’s worth while. That’s what this country needs — more books!”
The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness.
Tracy Lord: These stories are beautiful. Why, Mike, they’re almost poetry.
Macaulay Connor: Don’t kid yourself, they are.
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword.
I do not write for such dull elves
As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.
All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.
One great advantage which poetry has over prose—one sense in which, we might even say, it is considerably more beautiful—is that it fills up space approximately three times as rapidly.
Jeremy Goodwin: And in that moment, Dan was reminded once again why he wanted to write in the first place: to impress women.