Best of Judith Moore Reading interviews 1997-98

Anne Lamott, Jamaica Kincaid, Ved Mehta, Paul Theroux, and more

Anna Swir: developed late as a poet and developed late as a woman

Anna Swir: developed late as a poet and developed late as a woman

Czeslaw Milosz on Anna Swir

Milosz explained that he set about translating Swir’s poems, “in order to repair injustice, because she was underestimated. I consider her a very important poet. But she was somehow in the shade. First of all, she had great difficulty in finding proper expression for her experiences, her war experiences. And then later she had difficulty finding this proper expression also for her love experiencesAnd for that reason she was not highly known.”

Jan. 2, 1997 | Read full interview

Jane and Michael Stern: " Next we’re going to get a bull"

Jane and Michael Stern: " Next we’re going to get a bull"

Michael and Jane Stern

Jane allowed as how it certainly was “easier to have a relationship with a dog than a human being. And I think that if people are coming out of the closet with their love for dogs, it’s probably because it is such a pure love. A friend of ours just lost a parent and the same week his dog died. And he said, ‘It’s funny, but I find myself grieving for my dog more than for my mother.’

Feb. 20, 1997 | Read full interview

Thomas Merton.  Milosz had a correspondence — from 1958 to 1968 — with Merton, primarily about attitudes toward nature

Thomas Merton. Milosz had a correspondence — from 1958 to 1968 — with Merton, primarily about attitudes toward nature

Letters of Merton and Milosz

Milosz was seeking a defense, a Pascalian defense, of Christianity. One reason Milosz became interested in Merton was the hope that Merton would be the kind of man to provide this. But he didn’t. What happened is that Merton became the listener and the main instrument in these letters becomes Milosz…. In some of Milosz’s most important poems, he approaches figures of tremendous spiritual force. And then, we find the reversal.”

March 6, 1997 | Read full interview

Anne Lamott has always written spacious, lushly described passages.

Anne Lamott has always written spacious, lushly described passages.

Anne Lamott

“I have very brilliant friends. And I rely on them a lot. I let them into the process with me by begging them for help. I call people and I say, ‘I’m writing this scene about dumps and this is what I can remember. But there’s something I’m missing, I can’t figure it out. Will you just talk to me?’ They groan, ‘I’m working now.’ I plead, ‘Just talk to me for one minute.’”

April 10, 1997 | Read full interview

Don Selby: “I returned to poetry to see what I had missed after an English major in college and a poetry hiatus in law school."

Don Selby: “I returned to poetry to see what I had missed after an English major in college and a poetry hiatus in law school."

On Reading Habits (Poetry Daily)

“We had speculated that we would have high activity during the work week, when people are reporting to jobs, sometimes not so pleasant jobs, at eight in the morning. We figured they might want to sign on and read some poetry or look in during lunch break. We’re finding that is largely the case. The site is very active Monday through Friday. It tails off a bit on Friday. Saturday sees the lowest number of visits.”

Oct. 16, 1997 | Read full interview

Jamaica Kincaid. After loss of her mother’s entire attention, she turned to books.

Jamaica Kincaid. After loss of her mother’s entire attention, she turned to books.

Jamaica Kincaid

“He gave me $1000 for a ‘Talk’ story. And in those days, I think, they only paid $400. But it was an example of liking something so much that he paid me this incredible sum of money. This was in 1974. I’d never seen so much money in my life. I had never expected to be paid for my writing. And when I started to garden, I didn’t know I could be paid for writing and thinking about gardening.”

Nov. 6, 1997 | Read full interview

The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo. A "first line announces a new world’s creation."

The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo. A "first line announces a new world’s creation."

First Lines of Novels

“I have been here before,” I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were white with fools’ parsley and meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendor, such as our climate affords once or twice a year, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God.”

Jan. 8, 1998 | Read full interview

M.F.K. Fisher -  began writing about food and eating before it was chic.

M.F.K. Fisher - began writing about food and eating before it was chic.

MFK Fisher

When Fisher began writing about food and eating, these subjects had not yet acquired chic. They were women’s subjects and were most often sequestered in cookbooks, restaurant guides, and women’s magazines. In 1943 Fisher noted in her book The Gastronomical Me: “People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do. They ask it accusingly.

Jan. 15, 1998 | Read full interview

Ruth Reichl

M.F.K. Fisher said that when we talk about food we’re really talking about more than food. I think people respond to that. As life has gotten more hectic for people, and as people have less actual contact and so many more people don’t sit down to dinner with their families the way they used to, I think that people are looking for that feeling that they got from being at the table by reading about food.

April 23, 1998 | Read full interview

John Irving: “I don’t know that one’s writing comes out of an experience so much as of an age."

John Irving: “I don’t know that one’s writing comes out of an experience so much as of an age."

John Irving

“So it was that whole shadowy area of what women aren’t permitted that was a provoking initiation to this story. You can’t simplify it so much to say, ‘Oh well, women feel things more deeply than men.’ I mean, I’m not going to say that. But on the other hand, there’s every evidence that they do. Ruth’s mother Marion, for example, will never recover from the death of her sons. Whereas Ruth’s father goes on and on and on.

June 4, 1998 | Read full interview

Ved Mehta: “I often wrote with Mr. Shawn in mind."

Ved Mehta: “I often wrote with Mr. Shawn in mind."

Ved Mehta

About his one and only meeting with The New Yorker's present editor, Tina Brown, who did not renew Mehta’s New Yorker contract, Mehta writes: “We exchanged one or two amenities, then neither of us could think of anything more to say. Actually, most of our meeting, which couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes, was taken up with an embarrassing confusion over which chair she should sit in and which chair I should sit in.”

July 30, 1998 | Read full interview

Paul Theroux - met Naipaul in east Africa in 1966

Paul Theroux - met Naipaul in east Africa in 1966

Theroux and Naipaul

Theroux portrays Naipaul, with an odd bitterness, as an almost crazily zealous oenophile who busied himself in his wine cellar while Theroux tried to confess his misery at the breakup of his marriage. I remember that Naipaul, with avidity, chatted up the wine steward. I remember that at that second dinner he asked our hostess if he might order a cabernet the steward recommended. She assented and Naipaul, when the bottle arrived, poured wine in our glasses.

Dec. 23, 1998 | Read full interview

For more stories by Judith Moore, visit her staff page

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