Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Shut the fuck up and listen”

A couple of years ago, Matt Bondurant, the author of THE NIGHT SWIMMER, was interviewed by Lori Ann Stephens for Glimmer Train (Issue 87). I found two of his answers particularly interesting and they have stayed with me:

Q: How do you prepare yourself for book reviews from both professional critics and casual reviewers?

A: There is no preparation … But I remind myself that I invited myself to this party, in fact I was desperate to get in. As the great poet Phillip Levine once said about people expressing their opinions about your work (and I paraphrase here): Shut the fuck up and listen. You should consider yourself incredibly lucky that anyone at all cares enough to read your
writing, much less take the time to formulate an opinion and comment on it! I believe this is true.

[He is asked what he reads when writing … ]

A: … I’m heavily influenced by other writers, and I don’t try to avoid that. I celebrate it. I encourage my students all the time, especially the young writers, to emulate the great authors. When I was a young writer, I spent several years writing Raymond Carver stories, and then I was writing F. Scott Fitzgerald, and then I was trying Cheever stories, and I went through a Faulkner period. None of them was really good, but at the end of that, you emerge as something else. All these young writers are twenty years old and want to write their own voices, and I’m like, Forget about all that. Write like people you really enjoy and appreciate and admire 

Q: Because what you’re really learning is style and syntax.

A: Exactly. And then you internalize that rhythm and word choice and syntax, and after a while you’ve got this nice mix of all these people, and then your style will show up. It might not be until you’re thirty or forty years old, but it does show up eventually if you keep going. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a wise man. The day we think we have nothing to learn from great writers, even unknown excellent writers, is the day we should close up our computers and lay down our pen.