May 16, 1971 NYT
Miss McCarthy Explains (Part 2)
You have been here, living in
I think eventually I would lose my subject matter. Of course, this book took a long time to write. I started it way back in '64. Then I had those two
In my case, living in
Do you plan to go back?
I don't think people's movements should be dictated by artistic needs. It would be horrible, evil, for one to make one's artistic needs the motor of one's life. George Orwell was against it too, on sort of puritan grounds. Maybe I'm a puritan too, I don't know. Of course it's true, about the egotism of writers--this monstrous egotism that we seem to have. Bellow is a most ghastly example of it. I don't think that wives and children and dwellings ought to be sacrificed to the needs of the artist, though there are certainly moods when I feel it. But on the whole I believe in a certain amount of submission to fate and also to chance. All that, too, is part of the natural and the vitality of the natural. Some subject has to propose itself to me--not me proposing myself to the subject. In writing, there has to be some element of the Tolstoyan "I cannot be silent." That's more true, of course, of political polemics; but you don't sit down and decide to write a polemic. You reach the point of saying to yourself: I cannot be silent any longer, about whatever it is.
Somebody wrote rather wittily about a woman poet in America that her only relation to poetry was the desire to write poems. I am rather against the autocratic will. If I moved home to America to pursue my subject matter, the subject would run away from me, I'm sure, as a punishment.
Do you always write your novels slowly? This one was begun in 1964; and "The Group," which was published in 1963, was begun in 1952.
Not always, just those two. "The Group" became a terrible problem--partly a moral problem--not about sex of course. But I began to feel as though I was persecuting those girls and just hammering away at them and knocking their poor heads together and that I ought to stop that, this just could not go on, and so I put it away for several years. I didn't work on it at all and wrote another novel instead and then I went back and reread it and I thought, this isn't so bad, I had been exaggerating. This happened repeatedly during those 11 years, and I did several books in between. Whereas, with this one,
Do you really think that the American writers who wrote about
Well, it's true. I'm so discouraged. I really thought when Nixon first came in that he wanted to get us out of the war, for whatever motives. I think maybe he did; but the office doesn't want to get the President out of the war, which means that I think this war was "not an accident," as Trotsky was fond of saying. It must come out of something very deep that we had not noticed in American life, because it took us all by surprise--this slow involvement in
|With the ever-present Lucky Strike - I love this pic|