Thursday, January 17, 2013

Joan Didion

Joan Didion's many books includes such nonfiction as The Year of Magical Thinking (2006) and Blue Nights (2011). From her interview by Hilton Als for The Paris Review:


By now you’ve written at least as much nonfiction as you have fiction. How would you describe the difference between writing the one or the other?


Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through. The work process is totally different from writing nonfiction. You have to sit down every day and make it up. You have no notes—or sometimes you do, I made extensive notes for A Book of Common Prayer—but the notes give you only the background, not the novel itself. In nonfiction the notes give you the piece. Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.


Do you do a lot of rewriting?


When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm. Once I get over maybe a hundred pages, I won’t go back to page one, but I might go back to page fifty-five, or twenty, even. But then every once in a while I feel the need to go to page one again and start rewriting. At the end of the day, I...[read on]
The Year of Magical Thinking is one of Mark Whitaker's six favorite memoirs, Douglas Kennedy's top ten books about grief, and Norris Church Mailer's five best memoirs. It is a book that made a difference to Samantha Bee.

--Marshal Zeringue