The excellent Paris Review has just opened up its archive, a half-century worth of fascinating interviews with some of the greatest literary figures in modern history. From William Faulkner to Stephen King, the archive spans hundreds of interviews taken between the 1950s and today.
We’ve curated 10 quotes from 10 of our favorite interviews.
The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, short-sighted, color-blind, auditorily biased, who has read the books that I have read. He should also be about my age.” ~ Anthony Burgess
Of course I thought I was Jo in Little Women. But I didn’t want to write what Jo wrote. Then in Martin Eden I found a writer-protagonist with whose writing I could identify, so then I wanted to be Martin Eden—minus, of course, the dreary fate Jack London gives him. I saw myself as (I guess I was) a heroic autodidact. I looked forward to the struggle of the writing life. I thought of being a writer as a heroic vocation.” ~ Susan Sontag
I’ve always been keenly aware of the passing of time. I’ve always thought that I was old. Even when I was twelve, I thought it was awful to be thirty. I felt that something was lost. At the same time, I was aware of what I could gain, and certain periods of my life have taught me a great deal. But, in spite of everything, I’ve always been haunted by the passing of time and by the fact that death keeps closing in on us. For me, the problem of time is linked up with that of death, with the thought that we inevitably draw closer and closer to it, with the horror of decay. It’s that, rather than the fact that things disintegrate, that love peters out.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir
Now, if you don’t like that, Berrigan, that’s the history of my family. They don’t take no shit from nobody. In due time I ain’t going to take no shit from nobody. You can record that.” ~ Jack Kerouac
You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” ~ Ray Bradbury
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to create your own world whenever you want to. Writing is very pleasurable, very seductive, and very therapeutic. Time passes very fast when I’m writing—really fast. I’m puzzling over something, and time just flies by. It’s an exhilarating feeling. How bad can it be? It’s sitting alone with fictional characters. You’re escaping from the world in your own way and that’s fine. Why not?” ~ Woody Allen
I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool—and I’m not any of those—to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.” ~ Maya Angelou
When I began to lose my sight, the last color I saw, or the last color, rather, that stood out, because of course now I know that your coat is not the same color as this table or of the woodwork behind you—the last color to stand out was yellow because it is the most vivid of colors. That’s why you have the Yellow Cab Company in the United States. At first they thought of making the cars scarlet. Then somebody found out that at night or when there was a fog that yellow stood out in a more vivid way than scarlet. So you have yellow cabs because anybody can pick them out. Now when I began to lose my eyesight, when the world began to fade away from me, there was a time among my friends… well they made, they poked fun at me because I was always wearing yellow neckties. Then they thought I really liked yellow, although it really was too glaring. I said, ‘Yes, to you, but not to me, because it is the only color I can see, practically!’ I live in a gray world, rather like the silver-screen world. But yellow stands out.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges
The idea that addiction is somehow a psychological illness is, I think, totally ridiculous. It’s as psychological as malaria. It’s a matter of exposure.” ~ William S. Burroughs
You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
The series is also available in book form, as a four-volume box set that we highly recommend — a priceless timecapsule of cultural history.