W.H. Auden’s plea to an editor at The New Yorker, as recorded in his diary, which just sold at auction for $75,000
Interviewer: Do you feel yourself to be in competition with other writers?
William Styron: No, I don’t. “Some of my best friends are writers.” In America there seems to be an idea that writing is one big cat-and-dog fight among the various practitioners of the craft. Got to hole up in the woods. Me, I’m a farmer, I don’t know no writers. Hate writers. That sort of thing. I think that just as in everything else writers can be too cozy and cliquish and end up nervous and incestuous and scratching each other’s backs. In London once, I was at a party where everything was so literary and famous and intimate that if the place had suddenly been blown up by dynamite it would have demolished the flower of British letters. But I think that writers in the U.S. could stand a bit more of the attitude that prevailed in France in the last century. Flaubert and Maupassant, Victor Hugo and Musset, they didn’t suffer from knowing each other. Turgenev knew Gogol. Chekhov knew Tolstoy and Andreiev, and Gorki knew all three. I think it was Henry James who said of Hawthorne that he might have been even better than he was if he had occasionally communicated a little bit more with others working at the same sort of thing. A lot of this philosophy of isolation in America is a dreary pose. I’m not advocating a Writers’ Supper Club on Waverly Place, just for chums in the business, or a union, or anything like that, but I do think that writers in America might somehow benefit by the attitude that, What the hell, we’re all in this together, instead of, All my pals are bartenders on Third Avenue. As a matter of fact, I do have a pal who’s a bartender on Third Avenue, but he’s a part-time writer on the side.
[From The Paris Review’s “William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 5”]
Right on, readers.
Qualities you need to get through medical school and residency: Discipline. Patience. Perseverance. A willingness to forgo sleep. A penchant for sadomasochism. Ability to weather crises of faith and self-confidence. Accept exhaustion as fact of life. Addiction to caffeine a definite plus. Unfailing optimism that the end is in sight.
Qualities you need to be a novelist: Ditto.”
—Khaled Hosseini (via NYT)