Tag Archives: colson whitehead

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.

Colson Whitehead’s Rules For Writing.

One of my favorite contempoary authors, Colson Whitehead, recently laid out his 11 Rules for Writing over at the New York Times. It’s predictably insightful–and hilarious:

Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.” Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources, living off the inheritance he received after the suspiciously sudden death of his father. He’s in your apartment pawing your stuff when you’re not around, using your toothbrush and cutting out all the really good synonyms from the thesaurus. Don’t be afraid: you have a best seller on your hands.

The best may be rule # 8, though, which he simply says “Is secret.” If you don’t already, you should definitely follow Whitehead on Twitter.