I do a lot of self-deprecating spiel about my own writing, but let me tell you this: I love writing. It is without question one of the very few things I enjoy doing without reservation. There's few times in my life when I feel as happy as when I'm writing, even if I'm writing something frivolous, or something that isn't the best I can do, or isn't going to go anywhere except the junk drawer of my hard drive. (Like, for example, this entire LiveJournal.) And I am absolutely unqualified in my love of reading good fiction. I'm not quite as unconditionally enthusiastic about hearing writers talk about their writing, about the process of creation, or about their theories of literature; it can be terrifically rewarding (I am, after all, a lit theory geek), but it can also veer wildly from pretentious to dull to self-congratulatory to pathetic to dogmatic.
On occasion, though, a writer you really like talks to another writer you really like about the kind of writing you really like and says things about the process of writing that are so dead on, so precisely right, so unspeakably true to you, that it rejuvenates you. It reminds you that there are people in the world who get it like you get it, who do it for the reasons you do it, who have the same kinds of problems you have but manage to create something amazing for all that.
Such is this interview, courtesy of the indespensible Maud Newton. It's a lengthy question-and-answer with Roy Kesey and George Saunders. The latter writer, subject of the interview, is someone whose first short story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, I'm reading right now (and in case you were wondering, it's fucking tremendous), and his second, Pastoralia, is one of my favorite books of all time. The former writer, the inquisitor (but also participant), is someone whose work I'm less familiar with, but everything I've read by him I've enjoyed. Like I say, it's long, but if you care at all about hearing talented writers talk with passion and intelligence about the thing they love, it's essential. Read especially Saunders' statements about the process of becoming a better writer; the similarity between skill-sets used in writing fiction and maintaining a relationship; the way the sheer joy of writing, heedless of the fact that you may not be writing the best or most usable stuff, can shock you out of unproductive periods and improve your habits overall; the differences between how a short story and a novel are imagined and constructed; and how content and subject can often be a distraction from the fact that universal themes can be applied in any situation -- that the world and everything in it can be placed in the most restrictive framework. Maybe you won't agree with all he says, but you'll not regret reading it.
As an aside, my gal ninafarina and I, apparently pretty much simultaneously and independently, read this article 400 miles away from each other and had almost exactly the same reaction to it. She even beat me to the message board where we both sometimes hang out to sing its praises. I gotta say that made me feel pretty good, and it's one of the ten thousand reasons I'm glad she's in my life.