Questions for Arthur Phillips
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Read more to find out his favorite authors, where he finds inspiration, and what his favorite words are.
What are your favorite books/who are your favorite authors?
A long list, growing all the time. By country? English: Stoppard, George Eliot, Shakespeare, Woolf, Greene. French: Perec, Proust. US: James, Nabokov, Salinger. Middle Europe: Kafka, Mann… Oh well: Borges, Kundera, Edward Gorey.
What’s the last great book you’ve read?
Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis. London Fields by Martin Amis.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Turning off the to-do list part of my brain and turning on the wandering, associative, day-dreaming part is the trick. And then paying attention to the results. It seems to work well for me if I walk the beagles. This may not be universal.
Do you have any writing rituals or habits? Where and when do you write?
I write on schedule, every day, from 3 to 6 hours, depending on where I am in the process. I write in cafes, and I have done for 15 years now. I’ve spent a lot of money at this.
What are your favorite words? And what are your least favorite words?
Favorites currently: pastinaceous [of or like a parsnip], scrofula [a form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, esp. of the neck, most common in children], autochthonous [originating where found, indigenous].
Least loved: synergy, Hooters, credenza.
The question of authenticity is a theme that seems to come up in this book and others you’ve written. What about that topic interests you?
Literature—and within literature, fiction—does one thing better than any other art. T gives you a plausible picture of what the hell other people are thinking, and, in the hands of a good novelist, lots of pictures of lots of different types of people. Nothing else does this: not movies, not memoir, not anything (or at least not as well and as thoroughly). Once that idea got its hooks in me, the degree to which people present themselves honestly, or even know themselves well enough to try, became very magnetic to me.