Thursday, July 23, 1998

Q&A Nicholson Baker: Multiplexing

Originally appeared in The Boston Book Review

Nicholson Baker:

For now, though, the CVS pharmacy is closer to the center of life than, say, Crate & Barrel or Pier 1, or restaurants, national parks, airports, research triangles, the lobbies of office buildings, or banks. Those places are the novels of the period, while CVS is its diary.
      “The Mezzanine” (1986)

HB: Why is, your new book, “The Everlasting Story of Nory” (1998) set in England?

NB: Well, we happened to be in England. My wife and I have always liked England. I suppose we’re primitive Anglophiles.

HB: How does “primitive” modify “Anglophile”?

NB: You can be a sophisticated Anglophile and say, what I really like is a certain view of the downs, I never go to stately homes. We wanted to go to stately homes.

I also went with the knowledge that I had to write a book, and wanted it to be a book about my own daughter. Even though the story is necessarily in the third person, because children don’t dictate novels, it has to be true to how she would sort and filter things.

HB: There’s always been a child-likeness to the observations or points of view in your work. So there was a logic to your writing directly through a child’s eyes in “The Everlasting Story of Nory”.

NB: In the case of “The Mezzanine”, the guy’s on the verge of a being a grown-up in some ways. He’s figuring out what it feels like to be able to shoot your cuffs and tie your tie. I wanted to keep some of that buoyancy and childish excitement about the lunch hour; that kind of feeling would be underneath the whole book. It’s not about alienation at all, but about what fun it is have an errand, a shoelace errand.

HB: There is no alienation in your books. There’s an absence of darkness. I want to throw in the word “exuberance” here.

Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Q&A: Doris Lessing

Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review. Date Approximate.


Doris Lessing: Hot Dawns

The creative dark. Incommunicable. And what about the pages discarded and thrown away, the stories that were misbegotten -- into the waste-paper basket, the ideas that lived in your mind for a day or two, or a week, but haven't any life, so out with them. What life, what is it, why is one page alive and another not, what is this aliveness, which is born so very deep, out of sight, fed by love?
   "Walking in the Shade"

HB: You know that Stephen King movie in which a woman kidnaps the writer and keeps him holed up as her own private novelist? Well, if this were a Stephen King movie and I could kidnap one novelist and keep her working for me it would be you.

DL: Really!?!?