Don DeLillo (b. November 20): “Writers should be dangerous” & other quotes on writing

20 Nov

Don DeLillo, born 20 November 1936, is one of the most influential American writers of the past decades. He has received a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American Book Award (Underworld, 1998).

“First you look for discipline and control. You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger.

“The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often – completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere. But rarely for extended periods, for paragraphs and pages – I think poets must have more access to this state than novelists do.”

Quotes on writing:

  1. For me, writing is a concentrated form of thinking. 
  2. American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. 
  3. I’ve come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version. 
  4. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That’s why so many of them are in jail.
  5. I’ve always seen myself in sentences. I begin to recognize myself, word by word, as I work through a sentence.
  6. The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. 
  7. Every sentence has a truth waiting at the end of it and the writer learns how to know it when he finally gets there. 
  8. I like the construction of sentences and the juxtaposition of words – not just how they sound or what they mean, but even what they look like. 
  9. Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some under-culture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.
  10. I think fiction comes from everything you’ve ever done, and said, and dreamed, and imagined. It comes from everything you’ve read and haven’t read. I think my work comes out of the culture of the world around me. I think that’s where my language comes from.

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