“I think you have to find reasons for [writing fiction] that are not external, that have to do with you and your life and your relationship to the world and other people. Part of my relationship to the world is through language and my evolving relationship with language. If I make the right kind of contact with language then I make meaningful contact with the world.”
Tomasi di Lampedusa’s language is relatively spare and direct but still formal and correct, and sprinkled with archaic terms. It is carnal and sophisticated, slyly humorous but still possessed of a kind of gravity and grace.
“In nonfiction I feel like I’m digging at different spots in one excavation site, but this book, a novel, felt more like a road trip. I went to places I knew and some I’d never been, so even though it was very freeing, it was also more challenging because I’m a creature of habit and however exciting new places are they always make me a little uneasy at first.”
“The recognition has been amazing. Writers, poets… we work a long time, we work hard, and until I won the PEN New England, I hadn’t quite realized how my confidence had been chipped away. ”
I do a lot of writing in sections, montage, and then feel them out for the best order. In other words, a lot of tunneling—a hole here, one there, and eventually some catacombs emerge. It’s lovely when a structure asserts itself—it’s like being a lost child wandering in a crowded place and all of a sudden someone trustworthy grabs your hand and pulls you to safety.
I think of the work as a memoir of self-reckoning and the kinds of comeuppances we sometimes have to endure in order to recast our expectations about intimacy and love.
The tourist has an ethnocentric point of view—the unchallenged belief that his or her way of thinking is the best way. The “traveler” is more likely to consider another person’s point of view, another culture’s point of view, and to aim for some kind of humanistic way of judging people, actions, customs. If we apply this to writing, the “tourist” is doomed to write bad fiction, because good writing and strong characters require empathy.