‘A piece of fiction is a communication. You’re sending an urgent message in a bottle from your desert island. You hope that somebody’s going to find the bottle and open it… But the message that is found cannot be exactly the message you’ve sent. Whatever bunch of words the writer transmits requires a person, a consciousness on the other end, to reassemble it. You know how it feels when you read something that opens up a little sealed envelope in your brain. It’s a letter from yourself, but it’s been delivered by somebody else, a writer.’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘The stories of Katherine Mansfield were very important to me when I was a child. My parents owned a book of her stories that had big print and beautiful line drawings, and I thought it was a children’s book. The stories were like mist, and I read them over and over. And the magic property of these Katherine Mansfield stories is that when you read them, even as an adult, you think, Now how did the words cause me to have that experience? I’ve just had an uncanny experience of enormous depth, but I can’t see what it has to do with the words.’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘When you start writing, your incredulity at the childish, incompetent, graceless thing that you’ve done is shattering. One of the advantages of having experience as a writer—and there aren’t many, in fact I can’t think of any other—is that you know you can make the horrible thing better, then you can make it better again, then you make it better again. And you may not be able to make it good, but at least it’s not going to be what you’re looking at now.’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘When I was in high school, all my friends said they were going to be writers. And I thought, How come you get to be a writer, and I don’t? I thought WRITER was written on their foreheads and they saw it when they looked in the mirror, and I sure didn’t see it when I looked in the mirror.

I always thought of writing as holy. I still do. It’s not something to be approached casually.’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘But the real fun of writing, for me at least, is the experience of making a set of givens yield. There’s an incredibly inflexible set of instruments—our vocabulary, our grammar, the abstract symbols on paper, the limitations of your own powers of expression. You write something down and it’s awkward, trivial, artificial, approximate. But with effort you can get it to become a little flexible, a little transparent. You can get it to open up, and expose something lurking there beyond the clumsy thing you first put down. When you add a comma or add or subtract a word, and the thing reacts and changes, it’s so exciting that you forget how absolutely terrible writing feels a lot of the time.’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘I find it endlessly interesting, endlessly funny, the fact that we’re rather arbitrarily divided up into these discrete humans and that your physical self, your physical attributes, your moment of history and the place where you were born determine who you are as much as all that indefinable stuff that’s inside of you. It seems so ridiculous. Why can’t I just buckle on my sword and leap on my horse and go charging through the forests?’

– Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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‘The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.’

– William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

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