Saturday, April 12, 2008

D.T. Max on Don DeLillo

I'm going through a pile of New Yorkers that my librarian, Haidee, gave me, and right now I'm in the June 18, 2007, issue. I'm reading a long feature about literary archives by D.T. Max. I just wrote to him for permission to reprint the following long paragraph, which I love, about the literary life:

DeLillo’s letters are often about business—negotiations over contracts, responses to translators—but a few of them provide insight into his austere approach to the literary life. One, in particular, is the kind of note that biographers long to stumble across. In October, 1995, David Foster Wallace wrote to him, “Because I tend both to think I’m uniquely afflicted and to idealize people I admire, I tend to imagine you never having had to struggle with any of this narcissism or indulgence stuff. . . . Maybe I want a pep-talk, because I have to tell you I don’t enjoy this war one bit.” DeLillo responded in November. “I was a semiconscious writer in the beginning,” he writes. “Just sat and wrote something, or read the newspaper, or went to the movies. Over time I began to understand, one, that I was lucky to be doing this work, and, two, that the only way I’d get better at it was to be more serious, to understand the rigors of novel-writing and to make it central to my life, not a variation on some related career choice, like sportswriting or playwriting. The novel is different. . . . We die indoors, and alone, and I don’t mean to sound overdramatic but you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, all of this happened over time, until eventually discipline no longer seemed something outside me that urged the reluctant body into the room. At this point discipline is inseparable from what I do. It’s not even definable as discipline. It has no name. I never think about it. But there’s no trick of meditation or self-mastery that brought it about. I got older, that’s all. I was not a born novelist (if anyone is). I had to grow into novelhood.”


Nicholas Borelli said...

DeLillo is a good Fordham man . . . just like me. Or, rather, I, just like him.



Amy Timberlake said...

What a great quote! Hear! Hear!