Jonathan Lethem on Envying Other Writers.

I’m getting through the long Paris Review interview with Jonathan Lethem, in the wake of finishing his excellent new novel Dissident Gardens. It’s not exactly timely or new, but still relevant:

INTERVIEWER

What about envying other writers?

LETHEM

Every human life includes moments of rage at unrecognition. We’re all injustice collectors. But that’s not the truth of any situation. I don’t mean to pretend that those bad feelings don’t exist. I know them intimately; they’re daily friends. But once you give them their name and shape, they’re like a set of really lousy cats living in your house. You kick them out of the way to get to where you’re going. In truth, it’s only dazzling when, say, Colson Whitehead puts out John Henry Days and there are sequences where I just don’t know how he did it. God what a great feeling! To have him over there in Fort Greene, living a few blocks away, as opposed to Christina Stead, dead and in Australia. Holy shit, right over there in Fort Greene and I don’t know how he did it. What a fantastic sensation. Would I want to be the only writer? No. Would I want to be the best? Well, that’s a lie, there’s no best. So there’s nothing to want.