CONVERSATIONS WITH AMERICAN WRITERS by Charles Ruas

CONVERSATIONS WITH AMERICAN WRITERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Skip the pretentious introduction to this collection of interviews (some from a WBAI radio-program, some from magazines) and browse, if you like, through Ruas' chats with 14 American writers--many of them over-interviewed, only a few of them particularly eloquent or revealing. Robert Stone (A Flag for Sunrise) is the most persuasively intense speaker, touching on the anxieties (theological, social, political) behind his fiction. Joseph Heller gives a vivid sense of his difficulties in writing, his strengths and weaknesses (""I have almost no natural affinity for metaphor or descriptive writing""), along with a few words on his struggle with Guillain-BarrÉ Syndrom. And there's a brief but pointed talk with William Burroughs about censorship. Most of the others interviewees, however, offer standard-issue comments on their recent work, their favorite themes, their literary influences: Paul Theroux is taken through a story-by-story analysis of his latest collection; E.L. Doctorow discusses Ragtime and Loon Lake; Eudora Welty, far less absorbingly than in A Writer's Beginnings, describes her literary roots; Norman Mailer expands on the Jack Abbott brouhaha and (no, not again!) Ancient Evenings; Gore Vidal is Gore Vidal; and there are unsurprisingly sad glimpses of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote--who celebrates the joys of writing on cocaine: ""It's a serious drug. You really should try it."" With Marguerite Young, Susan Sontag, Toni Morrison, and Scott Spencer also on not-very-impressive display: an unremarkable, modestly informative gathering.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1984
Publisher: Knopf