Saturday, August 27, 2011
The Morning Reading: "His prose was like a call to duty"
from the Paris Review Interviews:
Jonathan Franzen, The Art of Fiction No. 207
Interviewed by Stephen J. Burn
When did you first come across DeLillo?
I remember a Christmas visit to my wife’s family during which she gave me Players. I remember reading it on the train back up to Boston and having one of the purest aesthetic responses I’ve ever had. I’d finally found somebody who was putting on the page the apocalyptic, postindustrial urban aesthetic that I’d been looking for in film and photographs and had found expressed in music, particularly by Talking Heads. And here was somebody who was getting it on the page and writing like a dream. His prose was like a call to duty: You must write better. Here, see, it can be done. I find it remarkable that people don’t talk more about Players. In certain ways, DeLillo never wrote better.
What did you find so attractive about him?
It came as no surprise when I learned, later, that he sometimes composed books with one paragraph on each page, starting a new page after only a few sentences. His paragraphs really do have a stand-alone quality. It was through reading him that I came to see pages as collections of individual sentences. For a young writer, in particular, the terrors of the paragraph become more manageable when you see it as a system of sentences. I also started to see all the junk DNA that had cluttered my paragraphs before then, and that I’d been unaware of.
To read the interview in its entirety - and to peruse their archives for others, click here.