09 August 2012

“A book is whittled down from hope”

From Keith Ridgway in The New Yorker:

I don’t know how to write. Which is unfor­tu­nate, as I do it for a liv­ing. Mind you, I don’t know how to live either. Writ­ers are asked, par­tic­u­lar­ly when we’ve got a book com­ing out, to write about writ­ing. To give inter­views and explain how we did this thing that we appear to have done. We even teach, as I have recent­ly, stu­dents who want to know how to approach the pecu­liar occu­pa­tion of fic­tion writ­ing. I tell them at the begin­ning—I’ve got noth­ing for you. I don’t know. Don’t look at me.

I’ve writ­ten six books now, but instead of mak­ing it eas­i­er, it has com­pli­cat­ed mat­ters to the point of absur­di­ty. I have no idea what I’m doing. All the deci­sions I appear to have made—about plots and char­ac­ters and where to start and when to stop—are not deci­sions at all. They are com­pro­mis­es. A book is whit­tled down from hope…
Ridgway’s latest is Hawthorn and Child, but neither it nor the accompanying digital short story appear to be available in the US now. As you might be able to tell from the attitude of the preceding passage, he’s Irish.

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