Poets and Writers - - Editor's Note -

THERE ARE FEW LIV­ING NOV­EL­ISTS WRIT­ING IN ENGLISH who com­mand the level of rev­er­ence that our cover sub­ject has achieved over the past forty-two years, since his first novel, Grimus, was pub­lished in 1975. Toni Mor­ri­son is up there with him. As is Philip Roth. J. M. Coet­zee, Mar­garet At­wood, Ur­sula K. Le Guin. Cer­tainly there are oth­ers, but still, exclusive com­pany. Per­haps add Don DeLillo, whom Sal­man Rushdie clearly ad­mires, if the ref­er­ences to him in Porochista Khakpour’s in­ter­view with Rushdie are an ac­cu­rate gauge. At one point in their wide-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tion, Rushdie talks about his re­sis­tance to la­bels, mak­ing it clear that he wouldn’t be ter­ri­bly fond of this par­lor game of mine. “If some­one tries to put me in a par­tic­u­lar box, I im­me­di­ately want to be in a dif­fer­ent box. I’ve never been a great gang mem­ber. There are writ­ers who like to travel in packs—I don’t like that,” he says. “I just think what is great about this art form is that it’s one sin­gle in­tel­li­gence say­ing, ‘Here’s how I see it.’ An in­tel­li­gence that no­body owns. It’s just this one per­son say­ing, ‘I will tell you this.’ The de­sire to be that in­di­vid­ual voice I think is what makes a nov­el­ist. Every nov­el­ist I’ve ever loved has that thing where you know it’s them. You pick up a ran­dom page of DeLillo and it’s no­body else.” The same can be said of Rushdie, of course. His new novel, The Golden House, is a tour de force that puts cur­rent Amer­i­can cul­ture and pre­pos­ter­ous pol­i­tics in stark relief. It is, in a word, epic. As is the in­ter­view start­ing on page 54, which cov­ers a num­ber of sub­jects, but the com­ment that made my eyes sparkle was this one, about Rushdie’s ap­proach to the act of writ­ing: “I’ve al­ways had this view that you wake up every day with a lit­tle nugget of cre­ative juice for the day and you can ei­ther use it or you waste it. My view is, there­fore, you write first. Get up, get out of bed, get to your desk, and work.”

I love that kind of work ethic, and this is­sue is filled with bril­liant po­ets, nov­el­ists, mem­oirists, and es­say­ists who aren’t wast­ing a mo­ment. Still, I ad­mit I’m not at my writ­ing desk as often as I’d like, and I imag­ine I’m not alone. Lucky for us, Joyce May­nard (31) has a re­minder: “Writ­ing doesn’t hap­pen just when you place your fin­gers on the key­board or pick up your pen,” she says. “An es­sen­tial and too often over­looked part of the process oc­curs in the not-writ­ing time, the time when it looks as though nothing’s hap­pen­ing, but you’re ac­tu­ally mak­ing sense of your life.” The writ­ing time, the not-writ­ing time, let’s make the most of it all.

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