Sixteen women writersDorothy Parker, Marianne Moore, Maya Angelou, Susan Sontag and Anne Sexton among themdiscuss the art and craft of writing both fiction and nonfiction in this captivating, instructive compendium of interviews conducted by Donald Hall, Elisabeth Sifton and others for Plimpton's Paris Review. Offhand remarks frequently furnish unexpected new slants on the life and work of these writers. For example, Katherine Anne Porter illumines the autobiographical component behind Ship of Fools and the sense of history that pervades her fiction (she claims descent from a colonel who was a member of George Washington's circle during the Revolution). Simone de Beauvoir takes stock of the divided, conflicted women portrayed in her novels. Nadine Gordimer describes growing up in a South African gold mining town with a neurotic, suffocating mother and an unhappy Jewish-Lithuanian immigrant father. A revised update of a 1988 volume, this attractively designed collection includes interviews published between 1960 and 1994. Each is accompanied by a brief biographical-critical profile, a photograph of the subject and a facsimile manuscript page. Also here are Toni Morrison on the challenges facing black writers in a world dominated by white culture; Joyce Carol Oates on her working methods; and talks with Joan Didion, P.L. Travers, Eudora Welty, Rebecca West, Elizabeth Bishop and Mary McCarthy. (May)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A revised version of the 1988 collection of the Paris Review's series of interviews with writers, Women Writers at Work contains reports of interviews with 15 women writers prominent over the past 40 years. Arranged chronologically, the collection begins with Marianne Moore, whose first poetry collection was published in 1921, and ends with the prolific Joyce Carol Oates. Each interview is preceded by a brief, up-to-date biographical sketch, a brief introduction that includes context for the interview, a photograph of the writer, and a sample manuscript page from one of the writer's works. Each interview attempts to get at the relationship between the writer, her art, and the creative process. With the background and clarity of the interviews, readers will find themselves hearing the voices of the writers, imagined or real, enjoying the wit of Dorothy Parker, the self-assuredness of Toni Morrison, the directness of Simone de Beauvoir, the unassuming nature of P.L. Travers, the wide-ranging interests of Susan Sontag, and much more.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, NJ
This updated collection offers comforting yet intense views of 16 modern female literary icons from Mary McCarthy to Joyce Carol Oates. This revision of the 1988 collection contains new pieces on Toni Morrison, Susan Sontag, and Maya Angelou, plus many entries familiar to veteran Paris Review readers, like those on Dorothy Parker and Katherine Anne Porter. All together, it makes for a sweet gathering of many of the finest female writers of the century. Margaret Atwood is reliably erudite in her introduction exploring her subjects' views of what makes a "woman writer," which is epitomized by Mary McCarthy: "I think they become interested in decor." The writers themselves are a largely precise, self-effacing bunch, many noting late literary starts and unrelated career intentions. Nadine Gordimer wanted to be a dancer, Joan Didion an actress, Elizabeth Bishop a composer. In addition to digressions on the writing process, there are amusing, endearing asides that draw the writer closer to the reader: Brooklynite Marianne Moore misses the Dodgers ("and I am told that they miss us," she adds). They are also women who know themselves pretty well; their insights span more than writing. A good collection to have around on principle, and genuinely inspiring.
"The editors and interviewers of the Writers at Work series have become curators of live genius, marvelous literary taxidermists who have discovered a way to mount the great minds of their day without the usual killing and stuffing, to preserve them for all time. Surely this is now one of the single most persistent acts of cultural conservation in the history of the world, and one of our great national resources." Joe David Bellamy, Writing at the End of the Millennium
"Aspiring writers should read the entire canon of literature that precedes them, back to the Greeks, up to the current issue of The Paris Review." William Kennedy
"It is a safe bet that thirty and even three hundred years from now these conversations will be invaluable to students of twentieth-century literature." Time