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I don’t want to be movie-star famous. I want to move people with my writing.
– Ethan Canin
The Internet is changing American fiction – and I don’t mean in some kind of metaphysical way.
I really enjoy the immediacy of the ‘knife and gun clubs,’ as they’re so callously called. Emergency is a great place to learn about people.
Books were king, but now movies are king, and books are sort of ignored. So now there’s no sense of a welcoming community where you live.
I’m a Jew. I think every Jew is dark in certain ways.
There’s a beauty to math. Math is so simple. It’s just one step after the next.
When you’re in medicine – especially when you’re a resident in a public hospital – you feel like you’re doing your part. But not when you’re a writer.
No matter what writers say, most stories are about ourselves. The facts might change a little, but not much.
It’s nice when critics say ‘Emperor of the Air’ is an important book of stories.
I like medicine. Even if I was selling a million books a year, I would still be a doctor.
The only successful way to write, and the only one I have found, is to be the character. Give up on trying to control them. Writers always talk about hearing voices. That’s what they mean.
In medical school, you’re taught to write in this convoluted, Latinate way. I knew the vocabulary as well as anyone, but I would write kidney instead of nephric. I insisted on using English.
My idea of teaching literature is just to read great passages aloud or to look at it the way a writer does, which is what I try to do. Which is to say, ‘How does this writer do this? How did he order his scenes? Do you notice any pattern to his sentences?’
People are surprised when Hollywood characters act the way a real person would.
It’s safe to say that all poets are manic-depressives, but fiction writers are on that scale, too.
There once was this powerful, both capital and political, class who cared about supporting and affirming a solid middle class in this country.
Your first book is kind of a labor of ignorance. You don’t realize the difficulty of it. Your second book is sort of a labor of fear. Then you sort of either hit a stride, or you don’t.
I think Bellow’s the greatest American writer of his century, personally. When I read him, I’m in awe.
I think even great writers only write two books that you might like. When I think of my touchstone writers like Saul Bellow, I think of ‘Henderson the Rain King.’ With Don DeLillo, I think of ‘Libra.’
You don’t idea your way into a plot but plot your way into an idea.
I started out writing stories because that’s all I wanted to read, but now I don’t know if I’ll ever write one again.
Why say ‘utilize’ when you can say ‘use’?
Fiction is about small ambition, small failed ambition, small disappointed hope.
Every time I’d sing or play piano when I was a child, my dad would yell up from the basement, ‘That’s B-flat!’
I can only remember two books from college that moved me: E.M. Forster’s ‘Howards End’ and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby.’
I don’t have a pen name, so I’m thinking of getting a doctor’s name. What would you call that, a stethoscope name?
Families tend to artificially divide the world, imbuing one member with all the attributes and another with all the faults. But it’s never that way.
Mathematicians don’t like it when they’re associated with mental illness and sort of bristle when you say that they can’t get along socially, that they’re not good with people.
I think that’s what poets try to do: They try to sidestep neurology and go straight to meaning.
I’m fascinated by power, by those that can be publicly generous and privately ruthless.