This is so great: The Paris Review has put all its interviews online—for free. Writers talking about writing! Here are some of the ones I'm looking forward to: Ray Bradbury, Billy Collins, Paula Fox, Mary Karr, John McPhee, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Elizabeth Spencer, and Peter Taylor.
An excerpt from a 2010 interview with John McPhee, longtime nonfiction writer at The New Yorker, follows.
What do you call the type of writing you do? Your course at Princeton has sometimes been called The Literature of Fact and sometimes Creative Nonfiction.
I prefer to call it factual writing. Those other titles all have flaws. But so does fiction. Fiction is a weird name to use. It doesn’t mean anything—it just means “made” or “to make.” Facere is the root. There’s no real way to lay brackets around something and say, This is what it is. The novelists that write terrible, trashy, horrible stuff; the people that write things that change the world by their loftiness: fiction. Well, it’s a name, and it means “to make.” Since you can’t define it in a single word, why not use a word that’s as simple as that?
Whereas nonfiction—what the hell, that just says, this is nongrapefruit we’re having this morning. It doesn’t mean anything. You had nongrapefruit for breakfast; think how much you know about that breakfast. I don’t object to any of these things because it’s so hard to pick—it’s like naming your kid. You know, the child carries that label all through life.
Which interviews are you going to read first?