TMR’s Editors Prize
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April 16, 2013
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February 12, 2013
“The problem with modern artists is that they are always going neurotically back and forth between making art and then life, where they collect the experiences. I recognized that in myself and thought, What if I can make them one?”
December 10, 2012
A poem is a score for consciousness (“score” as in “musical score”). In textual terms, consciousness conveys itself as what fiction writers call “point of view.” So far so good. I believe less in the absolute separation of the various points of view, however: first person and third person are manifestations of the same thing: consciousness per se. Therefore, I work as though every third-person text is simply a first-person text in which no one has (yet) said “I” but could at any moment. I also work as though every poem, whatever its preponderant pronoun, is in fact (à la Whitman) a groping for omniscience, the manifestation of a desire to forgive everything and therefore to know everything.
October 9, 2011
Things are changing really fast in terms of even what the reading experience is. I stand by the claim that short stories and poems tend to be pretty far outside of the purview of mass culture. You’d be hard pressed to talk to a man on the street who could tell you a story that had been written in his lifetime. He might be able to mention Jack London or O’Henry or something like that. But at the same time, I don’t think the fact that fewer people read them or that they’re not part of the center of mass culture makes them any less vital.
July 23, 2011
We worry, as we should, about First Amendment censorship, but each of us ha s his own personal level of censorship going on. For all the lip service paid to the imagination, getting to it isn’t always easy. The imagination can be a very subversive force, and both society and the individual can be wary of that.
March 1, 2010
If you don’t love stories, then what takes the place of that desire? We live by stories; they are the bedrock of articulate human existence. It’s not possible to imagine a world in which there are no stories. The problem comes in the telling, of course. In my family, stories were a kind of spendable currency, and everyone told them. I suppose if one were determined to forget where he came from, that would require a kind of militant denial of one’s own past, and while such a denial might be eff ected, it’s really a species of pathology.
December 1, 2009
I’ve spent much of my life being attuned to watching for an image or a phrase that can trigger what might be a poem-could become a poem. What triggers a poem for me is not the same as what triggers an essay. My mind is geared now to looking for, or to watching out for, the image that attracts my attention or the phrase or the strange juxtaposition that strikes me bodily, or an odd question or supposition. If I’m excited by something bodily, and curious about it, I generally want to delve into it and explore it with poetry. That’s the way I ordinarily watch the world around me.
September 1, 2009
It becomes part of your memory, and there is this porousness between the narrator’s mind and the reader’s mind. At some point, it literally shares space, narrative space. To me, that’s the exciting thing, that somehow, out of nothing, I as a writer create a space into which you as the reader can step.
June 1, 2009
This is a culture that does not honor the arts, increasingly does not honor the arts, does not honor literacy, does not honor intelligence, does not honor contemplation. That’s what we’re swimming in. I think you have to find whatever it is that drove you to begin writing in the first place, and you have to feed it.
June 1, 2009
Believability is in minutiae, those small details that rise up. If you’re referencing a sunset-Chekov points this out-it’s often a waste of language to talk about things generally: the way the sunlight filters through the sky and over the forest. Instead focus on a bunch of broken glass on the ground. . .
December 1, 2008
I grew up four miles outside of a town of six hundred, and by the time I was thirteen, I knew most of those people. My father knew all of them and others for miles around, men and women, black and white, and when he met a person he did not know, it was not long before he made a connection with someone that they both knew. In fact, most of the talk in the country was about people, and not just the living or the recently dead. There was a kind of web, a legending and a curiosity that enclosed us. I take that with me, and I imagine that the longer cultural habit does go back to Chaucer, but not just through books and not just through language.
September 1, 2008
It is very difficult and kind of stupid to be confident about something that is inherently unknowable. Let’s say I think a band is better than another band: I might really believe that, and maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I’m wrong. I probably think it’s probably true, in my opinion. So I don’t know why it would be better writing if I removed the “probablys” and made it a “stronger” statement. Criticism is an unclear world, and the major critics, or rather the ones who’ve seemed to establish the tone of how criticism is written, have concluded that having an authoritative voice is better, even if that fabricated authority doesn’t match the way they think. I use qualifiers because I think things need qualification.
March 1, 2008
This generation takes in more information daily than my parents and grandparents ever had to. With the Internet and the screen culture, we’re all living in a period of data smog. Part of what it means to write a story now involves noticing that environment. I’m really interested in the way people do not pay attention to certain things anymore. People listen much more selectively than they once did. It’s a feature of our time that you see people walking down the sidewalk talking on the phone. That’s amazing! They’re on the phone! These things remain a feature of our lives that our grandparents would never have believed.
December 1, 2007
I have a suspicion that goodness, like cleverness, like being good at writing — is a talent, which can and must then be educated and trained…. If, despite my experience of the Holocaust and having to leave my family at ten, my assumption is that this is not a basically violent world, it might not have something to do with having been treated kindly and with respect and with affection by the first people around me in my childhood.
September 1, 2007
[On the genesis of his novel Arthur & George] You think someone’s guilty, you believe they’re guilty, but how can you know they’re guilty, how can you prove they’re guilty? This tied in, I realized, with Conan Doyle’s black hole of emotions, this secret area of his life, which had never been written about before, probably because there was no documentary evidence — these ten years when he was involved with another woman while his wife was suffering from tuberculosis.
June 1, 2007
Cherry Lane Theater, in Manhattan’s West Village, is not located on Cherry Lane at all, but on Commercce Lane (nowhere near the Financial District of Lower Manhattan). It’s a venerable theater company that has been around for years, not very big, nowhere near broadway, tucked in a corner on one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New York: an urban paradise.
March 1, 2007
Interviewer: I’ve heard you say that you’re not the funny person in your family. Amy’s funny. Your brother’s funny. When did you figure out that you were funny? Sedaris: Oh, I’m not really. I can do things with paper sometimes, if you give …