Puttermesser Papers Review

CO: The difference is crucial: it’s between knowing and unknowing (rather than not knowing).If you are going to write an essay on, say, twilight in Sweden, or on Henry James, you know that much: you have your subject already in hand.Dreiser’s Sister Carrie might be another candidate, or The Scarlet Letter, or The Adventures of Augie March.

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(As for writing every day, see above.)You’re a writer who develops both formative essays and novels and short stories in nearly equal measure.

Since part of drafting fiction involves investigating certain aspects of life, I wonder what you see as being the overlap between scrutiny in your essays and scrutiny in your plot lines, or if they’re completely separate.

Erudite, intellectually rigorous, and brimming with generous insight, Ozick’s work as a critic and thinker demands a kind of attention from the reader, requires the reader to think along for the promise of revelation.

The Millions: In a Paris Review chat you did in 1985, you talked about having your routine consist of rising in the late afternoon and working through the night.

Whatever counted as “politics” was of no interest; nothing mattered but capital-L Literature and its inevitable sibling, History.

Still, writing, whether fiction or essays, is something apart from “information,” and rises out of the well of intuition: every human mind has its individuated “tone.” So when you ask about “the editing process,” and speak of “drafting/editing” — I find these reparative procedures foreign to me.

TM: What do you think it might take in order for a writer to produce a “great American novel” in today’s literary landscape, or even one that has relevance and power beyond what it achieves in the insular writing community?

Some say that the Great American Novel has already come into being, in The Great Gatsby, or in Moby-Dick, and a good case can be made for each of these.

One answer might be that the day is young — but can we see any inkling of a presumptive heir to Bellow or Updike or Nabokov, or to so many others of the previous generation (the list would be long and impressive) who have left a formative mark on American experience?

One sign, or omen, would be the presence of a writer of formidable language power, willing to use all the sources and resources of American prose; instead, we swim in a welter of the slipshod easy vernacular.

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