Discussions with the leading dramatists, poets, and novelists of the past fifty years.
All biography is a form of literary voyeurism, and the Paris Review interviews are no exception. Do we really need to know whether Ted Hughes reordered the poems in Sylvia Plath’s Ariel? Or that Evelyn Waugh believed the seventeenth century to be “the time of the greatest drama and romance”? Probably not; but sometimes this eavesdropping can be fruitful: I was so taken with the wit and intelligence displayed by John Cheever in his 1976 Paris Review interview that I knew I would enjoy his writing too. How can you not feel fond of an author who defines a good editor as one who “sends me large checks, praises my work, my physical beauty, and my sexual prowess, and who has a stranglehold on the publisher and the bank”? The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. III (Picador) is the latest in this excellent series of talks with leading novelists, dramatists and poets, selected from the archives of the legendary literary magazine. These sixteen interviews were selected from many others that appeared between the years 1955 (Ralph Ellison) and 2007 (Norman Mailer, interviewed just months before he died). In her introduction, Margaret Atwood—whose 1990 interview is not included in this or the previous two volumes—states what most would agree with: that this series of interviews is the “gold standard” against which all author interviews are to be measured.