Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Clarion loves interviews

Here at the Clarion desk in the the Pen & Anvil offices (overlooking Boston's beautiful Central Park...), we take special pleasure in interviews with authors and other literary workers: translators, editors, publishers. We love the text, of course, but love as well the way a good interview pulls the curtain back, permitting a peek at the thrill and throng behind the proscenium.

We're especially mindful this week of interviews, as the Clarion staff are working diligently to put Number 18, to bed -- the pair of interviews, with crime writers Eamon Loingsigh and James A. Ring, conducted by editor Jon Maniscalco.

While we look forward to the appearance of those new pieces on the webpage, here are a few other interviews, recommended by the editors, to satisfy your appetite for conversations with creators.

  1. Musician Jack White interviewed by Conan O'Brien (Serious Jibber-Jabber, 2013)
  2. Author R.A. Salvatore interviewed by Sto Austin (15)
  3. Writer E. B. White interviewed by George Plimpton & Frank H. Crowther (The Paris Review, 1969)

About this last interview, Clarion editor Frances Gossen asks that we particular attention to a particularly poignant passage addressing the responsibilities of writers: 
A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. I feel no obligation to deal with politics. I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.
              For a number of years, I was thinking almost continuously about the needless chaos and cruelty of a world that is essentially parochial, composed of more than a hundred parishes, or nations, each spying on the others, each plotting against the others, each concerned almost solely with its own bailiwick and its own stunt. I wrote some pieces about world government, or “supranational” government. I didn’t do it from any sense of commitment, I did it because it was what I felt like writing. Today, although I seldom discuss the theme, I am as convinced as I ever was that our only chance of achieving an orderly world is by constructing a governed world. I regard disarmament as a myth, diplomacy as a necessary evil under present conditions, and absolute sovereignty as something to outgrow.
Let's close this post with a dash of genre meta-awareness: here's a round-up of notable quotes on the subject of interviewery itself:

  • Harry Stack Sullivan: "I do not believe that I have had an interview with anybody in twenty-five years in which the person to whom I was talking was not annoyed during the early part of the interview by my asking stupid questions."
  • Joan Rivers: "You've gotta understand - when you interview someone, it's not an interrogation. It's not the Nuremberg Trials."
  • Orson Welles: "I have made an art form of the interview. The French are the best interviewers, despite their addiction to the triad, like all Cartesians."
  • Noam Chomsky: "I once did a three-hour interview with Radio Oxford only to be told the microphone hadn't picked me up."
  • Tom Stoppard: "The thing that happens remarkably often is that the people who are writing a dissertation believe they need to speak to me in order to do their dissertation. They need to interview me."
  • Tori Amos: "An interview will seem very sane to me, and I'll find out that the journalist was laughing out of the side of his mouth half of the time."
  • Willem Dafoe: "I wish to Christ I could make up a really great lie. Sometimes, after an interview, I say to myself, 'Man, you were so honest - can't you have some fun? Can't you do some really down and dirty lying?' But the puritan in me thinks that if I tell a lie, I'll be punished."
  • Chuck Klosterman: "If you're doing an interview, you need conversational tension. After you talk to them, you're not going to have a relationship with them, they're not going to like you, they're not going to be your friend."

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