Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like.
Just because a story uses material from the writer’s life, I don’t think you can say that it’s her life, or that the narrator is her. As soon as you select the material from your life, and arrange it and write it in a stylized manner, it’s no longer really identical to that life and that person.
What is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.
Adam Phillips, “The Art of Nonfiction No. 7,” the Paris Review.
The essential thing in theater is that what happens onstage very obviously both is and isn’t at the same time. The play demands that the audience extend its empathic imagination. But simultaneously, the audience—both the individual audience member and the collective animal—is skeptical. It says, But that man isn’t dead. He’s still breathing. And, That isn’t an angel crashing through the ceiling. It’s got these big wires hooking it up. It’s just a woman in a dress and cardboard wings. That disbelief is engaged in a dialectic with the surrender of skepticism. The theater requires an essential gullibility that you can’t get through life without having. If all you can feel is skepticism—well, you meet people like this. Run away from them. They’re not good people.
Tony Kushner in The Art of Theater No. 16
or: Angels in America was the first run-in I had with Brecht, though I didn’t recognize it at the time
or: pair with Theater of War, John Walter’s 2008 documentary on Kushner’s version of Mother Courage and Her Children
In what time would you prefer to live?
In the coming days of silent planes and graceful aircycles, and cloudless silvery skies, and a universal system of padded underground roads to which trucks shall be relegated like Morlocks. As to the past, I would not mind retrieving from various corners of space-time certain lost comforts, such as baggy trousers and long, deep bathtubs.
The novels that have fascinated me most are the ones that have reached me less through the channels of the intellect or reason than bewitched me. These are stories capable of completely annihilating all my critical faculties so that I’m left there, in suspense. That’s the kind of novel I like to read and the kind of novel I’d like to write. I think it’s very important that the intellectual element, whose presence is inevitable in a novel, dissolves into the action, into the stories that must seduce the reader not by their ideas but by their color, by the emotions they inspire, by their element of surprise, and by all the suspense and mystery they’re capable of generating. In my opinion, a novel’s technique exists essentially to produce that effect—to diminish and if possible abolish the distance between the story and the reader.
“Silence is also a form of speaking. It’s a basic component of language. We’re always selecting what we say and what we don’t. Why do we say one thing and not the other? And we do this instinctively, too, because no matter what we’re talking about, there’s more that doesn’t get said than does. And this isn’t always to hide things—it’s simply part of an instinctive selection in our speech. This selection varies from one person to the next, so that no matter how many people describe the same thing, the descriptions are different, the point of view is different. And even if there is a similar viewpoint, people make different choices as to what is said or not said.”
- Herta Müller, from The Art of Fiction No. 225, Paris Review
Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever. But the computer doesn’t do that for you. I’m sorry.
Ray Bradbury, “The Art of Fiction No. 203,” Paris Review.