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Personality Goes A Long Way

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The Paris Review Interviews, I (Paris Review Interviews) 

Imagine… instead of slaving over proposals, outlines, chapter summaries, market analysis… imagine if you could just talk your way into a publishing deal. Richard Price managed to do that very thing.

In The Paris Review Interviews, volume I, Richard Price recounts how he pitched Clockers to publishers. “Before I wrote a word of Clockers I had arranged to tell the story aloud to a number of publishers. Whoever was interested could bid against the others. I didn’t trust my prose at that moment in time, because I had been writing movie scripts for eight years. I said, At this point I can talk so much better than I can write. Let me just talk. If it’s inadequate, don’t bid. I was confident enough in my story that if they could hear it, they would have the faith to go with it… As it was, we had about nine publishing houses bidding… It’s from the studios. The way you get work with them is by being a salesman, by walking into an office where people have the power to commission projects and saying, Have I got a story for you!”

Of course, this won’t work for everyone. At this point, Price had a number of well-received novels under his belt and several successful movie scripts so he probably earned the right to do something different.

The Paris Review Interviews, volume I reveals several interesting personality traits of our favorite writers. In addition to Price, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, James M. Cain, Robert Stone, Elizabeth Bishop, and many other great authors are present. And while Price used his personality sell his novel, some of the others in the book aren’t quite so pleasant.

Comically, Hemingway seems completely put out by his interview. His responses are littered with comments such as, “That is a long-term tiring question and if you spent a couple of days answering it you would be so self-conscious that you could not write,” and “The fact that I am interrupting serious work to answer these questions proves that I am so stupid that I should be penalized severely.” Then again, I suppose when you’re Ernest Hemingway, you’re allowed to be annoyed by questions about naming characters.

Regardless, The Paris Review Interviews, volume I is an intriguing text for the aspiring author or just plain literature fan.