Friday, October 21, 2011

Jeffrey Eugenides & Jonathan Saffron Foer in Conversation

Great writing. Distinctive facial hair.

"JSF One of my biggest problems as a writer is that I get tired of what I’m working on. Or rather, I feel that a project can’t keep up with how I think about writing and how I think about the world. How were you able to commit yourself to one story for such a long period? And how did the passage of time influence what you were writing?
JE Well, one of the hardest things about writing Middlesex was trying to stay true to the original impulse. I felt young when I began the book but something more like middle-aged by the time I finished it. All sorts of life-altering things happened to me while I was writing it, too. My father died in a plane crash. I became a father myself. William H. Gass says it’s difficult writing a long book because as you go along, you get better, and then you have to go back and try to bring the rest of the book up to the same level. I did a lot of that. I obsessively went back and reworked the early parts of the book. Even so, I made sure the later chapters had the same voice and spirit as the early chapters."
JSF What wouldn’t you sacrifice for your writing?
JE I used to be scared of that line from Yeats, “perfection of the life or of the work.” I thought I’d never be able to make that choice, that I wasn’t disciplined enough, or committed enough. It sounded so painfully ascetic. But now I find that my work pretty much is my life. I don’t think I could operate without it. The lucky thing is that writing has only made me sacrifice things I can get along without: a frisky social life, a manly feeling of being “out in the world,” office gossip, teammates. You can be married and write. You can have a family and write. So you do have a life, after all. It’s waiting for you just outside your studio.
JSF I’m sorry, frisky social life?
JE Like the one you’re leading now, young man.
JSF Ahem. You allude, many times in Middlesex, to national epics, particularly Greek ones, of course. It seems to me that our modern epics — UlyssesOne Hundred Years of Solitude,Midnight’s Children — have had their greatest influence outside the countries of their origin. Am I wrong in sensing some ambition on your part to write a Greek epic for an American audience?

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