Where has Paris Review been my whole life?

To say I’m utterly enamored by the Paris Review is an understatement. I read the interview with Jeffrey Eugenides because in high school I read his book Middlesex and loved it. I remembered how he interweaved many narratives in such an effortless way to write an incredible novel. It amazed me how he said he didn’t like to write in a beautiful space and preferred to be in “small cramped rooms with not much in them”. Very different from how I’d imagine a writer who creates such complex stories as he does. It also struck me that he had a writing schedule he stuck to. I suppose I don’t think about writing as a job and I don’t like making a schedule of when I write but every author is different.

Eugenides remarked about how much he rewrites and reworks sentences a lot. It was awesome to see how dedicated to producing quality work he is. It inspired me to want to be a better writer because oftentimes I find myself writing sentences once and hardly touching them again other than to fix grammatical errors.

I also fan-girled a little over how he answered the way he outlines his books because it is very similar to how I write.

“So I plunge in headlong, and after a while I get worried that I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, so I begin to make a fuzzy outline, thinking about what might happen in the book or how I might structure it.”

Every time I write something with any sort of length I resort to this method of outlining. I like to begin with my own organic ideas and form it into a coherent structure when the time comes for me to have to. If I write with too much structure to begin with I feel constricted and like I can’t put my voice into whatever it is I’m writing, even if it’s a structure that I make for myself.

“Between the ages of twenty and thirty, I read with a voraciousness unmatched in any other decade of my life. I was trying to become less stupid.”

This is very much how I feel right now at 20. I have this idea that the more well read I am, the smarter I’ll be. I think it’s a bug that a lot of people get and I think there’s an air of truth behind being more knowledgeable the more you read.

 

“One last point—people often ask me why I chose to narrate a novel from the point of view of an intersex person, and my answer is, every novel should be narrated by an intersex person. The job of the novelist is to inhabit both male and female characters, so in a sense every novelist should possess a hermaphroditic imagination.”

I loved his point about writing from both gendered points of view. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever tried writing from a man’s point of view. I kind of only write from my own but the way Eugenides described embodying both genders and creating real characters through that embodiment was wholly intriguing and made me want to try.

“I have four or five novels, each about 120 pages in length. One is a satiric novel very much like the one you’re wondering if I would ever write.”

To me this is crazy! I can’t imagine having finished books just laying about. I admire that he hasn’t published them yet though because I imagine they’re not as great as he would’ve liked them to be yet.

Much of what Eugenides says about his writing is that he incorporates his real life experiences and sometimes experiences that aren’t his own. I find the amount of work he puts into his novels astounding and can only hope to write the way he does someday. Reading his interview and learning how he uses all of the different tools he does to create his literature really reminded me why I write and inspired me to keep writing the things I enjoy.

3 thoughts to “Where has Paris Review been my whole life?”

  1. Hi Liv! I loved reading about how you were inspired by Jeffrey Eugenides, and learning about his writing from your post inspired me as well. I was especially moved by the fact that he spends an immense amount of time reworking his sentences, because I too pass over many of mine without thinking too much into them. This knowledge makes me want to dedicate more of my time to each sentence that I write and treat every sentence with the same amount of care. I enjoyed the fact that you had a lot in common with Eugenides because I believe that feeling connected to an author makes a big difference in how they impact you. I similarly relate to you and Eugenides in terms of outlining since outlining, not only in my writing, is the only way that I function. I would be interested to know if Eugenides usually ends up sticking to his original outline or if he drifts away from it as he begins to write! How does your writing usually compare to what your outline consists of?

    1. Hey Emily!

      My outline is usually pretty close to what I end up writing about. Sometimes I have great ideas that I have to put down on paper otherwise I’ll forget so my outlines aren’t always just rigid forms I stick to. More times than not they’re just random blurbs of what I’m hoping to say and sometimes I think of something better in the process and I stray from my outline a little bit. I like my writing to be fluid and me.

  2. Hey Liv! I really liked the layout of this blogpost- how you broke it apart into a series of quotes and went on to explain why each one was meaningful to you in some way. I relate wholeheartedly to both your point and Jeffrey’s regarding outlines. Basically every time I begin to write something I start off overconfident, thinking I have all my shit together, and usually I only get through the first one or two paragraphs before I run out of steam. So yeah, the fuzzy outline can be very helpful. I also enjoyed reading about his focus on diverse narrators. You bring up a good point- I’d never really thought of trying to write from a male’s perspective, or anyone that different from me for that matter. I think that would be an interesting way to push my thoughts and ideas, thanks for sharing it!

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