There is nothing more terrible, I learned, than having to face the objects of a dead man. Things are inert: that have meaning only in function of the life that makes use of them. When that life ends, the things change, even though they remain the same. […] they say something to us, standing there not as objects but as remnants of thought, of consciousness, emblems of the solitude in which a man comes to make decisions about himself.
Yes, she is in love with him, and yes, in spite of his qualms and inner hesitations, he loves her back, however improbable that might seem to him. Note here for the record that he is not someone with a special fixation on young girls. Until now, all the women in his life have been more or less his own age. Pilar therefore does not represent an embodiment of some ideal female type for him--she is merely herself, a small piece of luck he stumbled across one afternoon in a public park, an exception to every rule.
I feel that the act of writing, in and of itself, is a tool towards probing that which you wouldn't without that pen in your hand. It's a strange, almost neurological phenomenon, and the words seem to generate more words - but only when you're writing. You can't do it in your head.
In a sense I am able to interrogate myself, address myself from that slight distance and enter a kind of dialogical relationship with myself. Because I'm saying, "Look, these are things that have happened to me, but how odd they are or how ordinary they are [is up to the reader to decide]."
Memoirs have dominated the literary scene now for ten or 20 or even 30 years: most of them seem to use the conventions of fiction and it's astonishing how in so many of these books people seem to be able to remember conversations that took place when they were five years old and give three pages of coherent dialogue, which is utterly impossible.
Reading, at the deepest level, is a physical experience. Most people are not attuned to this, most people don't learn how to read - poetry for example, or high-quality prose. They're used to reading magazines and newspapers, which are only of the mind, but not of the body.
No one was to blame for what happened, but that does not make it any less difficult to accept. It was all a matter of missed connections, bad timing, blundering in the dark. We were always in the right place at the wrong time, the wrong place at the right time, always just missing each other, always just a few inches from figuring the whole thing out. That's what the story boils down to, I think. A series of lost chances. All the pieces were there from the beginning, but no one knew how to put them together.
I met Peter Brook, the theater director, who's been based in Paris for many years at the Bouffes du Nord. I admire him tremendously. Some years ago, he was in New York, and he gave an interview with The Times, and what he said was this: "In my work, I try to capture the closeness of the everyday and the distance of myth. Because, without the closeness, you can't be moved, and without the distance, you can't be amazed." Isn't that extraordinary?
I guess of all those novels, Don DeLillo's Falling Man is the one I like the best. I thought there were some beautiful things in that, particularly the relationship between the man who finds the briefcase and the woman whose husband owned the briefcase. It's quite a beautiful passage.
This was the first time he had seriously confronted what he was doing, and the force of that awareness came very abruptly - with a surging of his pulse and a frantic pounding in his head. He was about to gamble his life on that table, and the insanity of that risk filled him with a kind of awe.
When the father dies, he writes, the son becomes his own father and his own son. He looks at is son and sees himself in the face of the boy. He imagines what the boy sees when he looks at him and finds himself becoming his own father. Inexplicably, he is moved by this. It is not just the sight of the boy that moves him, not even the thought of standing inside his father, but what he sees in the boy of his own vanished past. It is a nostalgia for his own life that he feels, perhaps, a... Read more »
I was born just after the end of World War II, and with my friends in our little suburban backyards in New Jersey, we used to play war a lot. I don't know if boys still play war, they probably do, but we were thrusting ourselves into recent history and we were always fighting either the Nazis or the Japanese.
Take a report. It's dry, the sentences are clunky and unfelicitous, they're just conveying information. But it seems to me that if you're fully engaged in a great piece of literature, once you enter the rhythms of the language, which is a kind of music, meanings are being conveyed that you're not fully aware of. They enter into your subconscious.
I remember I thought I should become a doctor, even though I had no talent for science whatsoever. Then of course, until I was about sixteen, I thought I might have a shot as a major league baseball player. But once I hit my full adolescence I lost all interest in that. I discovered, in rapid succession, books, girls, alcohol and tobacco, and I've never turned back. Those are the four things I'm most interested in.
In my life, I've lived in very different kinds of places - very tiny rooms when I was young. And you do learn to cope with it. The funny thing is, as you begin to inhabit larger places, it's very interesting how quickly you adapt to your space. What seems enormous at first becomes natural after a few weeks.
The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory. Some things have been lost forever, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again. There is no way to be sure of any this.
When I start, I have a feeling for the characters, and maybe the shape of the story. Sometimes I might even have the last sentence in mind. But, no book I've ever written has ever ended the way I thought it would. Characters disappear, others come forward. Once you start writing, everything changes.
Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.
I have to say in premise 'Winter Journal' is really not a memoir. And I don't even think of it as an autobiography. I think of it as a literary composition - similar to music - composed of autobiographical fragments. I'm really not telling the story of my life in a coherent narrative form.
I don't like talking about my work at all. I find it very difficult. I never know what to say. It's too close to me, and there's so many things happening unconsciously while I'm working that I'm not aware of, and people will point these things out to me, and I'll say, "That's interesting." But I don't know what to make of it.
My wife is my first reader, my first line of defence I suppose. So she says, "Oh well, oh yes, it's all true." At the same time, I could have written much more about us, but I didn't want to go any further. I did cut things out. There are certain things that I wrote about her that are so gushing with praise and admiration that when I looked at those passages I realised they would be ridiculous to anybody else.
I say at the very end of "Winter Journal" that I do dream about my father often. I think I have a tremendous compassion for him, which has grown over the years. A certain kind of pity for him also in that he was so unrealised as a human being, so dogged, and so shut-off from people in many ways. You know, I've been writing another book, and it's another non-fiction autobiographical work, kind of a compliment to "Winter Journal", and it's just finished.
I can remember saying again and again and again, "A terrible thing has happened, but this should be a kind of wake-up call for our country, and we have a great opportunity now to reinvent ourselves. To rethink our position about oil and energy, to rethink our relationship with other cultures and other countries, and why other people want to attack us."
My children haven't read 'Winter Journal'. They have read some of my work, but I really don't foist it on them. I want them to be free to discover it in their own good time. I think reading an intimate memoir by your father - or an intimate autobiographical work, whatever we want to call this thing - you have to come at it at the right moment, so I'm certainly not foisting it upon them.