Robert Cohen on co-editing a new anthology where established writers discuss their practice and vocation
The Writer's Reader: Vocation, Preparation, Creation, eds. Robert Cohen and Jay Parini (Bloomsbury, 2017).
The Writer’s Reader: Vocation, Preparation, Creation, eds. Robert Cohen and Jay Parini (Bloomsbury, 2017).

How did you come to put together The Writer’s Reader?

[Jay Parini, my co-editor, and I] both taught workshops for emerging writers — here at Middlebury, at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, at Iowa and Harvard and elsewhere — for more years than we care to think about, and all that time we’ve been Xeroxing certain essays we love, essays that seem particularly well-suited to providing consolation, instruction, and the muscle of inspiration, not just to the small-w aspect of the practice but to the larger, more long-term, capital-W sense as well. At a certain point it became almost physically painful, not having these essays between covers (especially the ones out of print), not being able to share them in an easy, accessible way. It just seemed somehow stupid and wrong that there was no way to introduce a new generation of writers to Natalia Ginzburg’s piece, say, or Tillie Olsen’s, or Ted Solotaroff’s, or Danilo Kis’ — to name just three of the wiser, more over-arching essays about the writer’s life you’re ever likely to find. (more…)

David Hering discusses how his new book led him to explore the Wallace archive

How did you discover David Foster Wallace’s work?

David Hering, David Foster Wallace: Fiction and Form (Bloomsbury, 2016)
David Hering, David Foster Wallace: Fiction and Form (Bloomsbury, 2016)

I actually read his journalism first, before knowing who he was – I read his piece in Premiere on David Lynch back in 1997 when I was in my teens, and remember thinking that it was very good and idiosyncratic, but not remembering his name. He was not really a widely-known writer in the UK at that point. It was only when I found myself re-reading it in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again years later that I joined the dots. I first came to his fiction in the mid-2000s, shortly before I started my PhD. The first thing I read was Infinite Jest – I went through a phase of devouring these huge postmodern encyclopaedic novels, and that was one of them. By that point the name had been floating round in my peripheral vision for a good while, and I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

I was immediately – immediately – struck by it. Sometimes it takes a while for a big book to bed in before you really love it – I think Bolano’s 2666 is a case in point – but I distinctly remember that by the time I got to the first line of the second chapter of Infinite Jest (‘Where was the woman who said she’d come’) I thought “I’m in this until the end”. Which is very unusual, for me at least. I think I read the last 200 pages in a day. (more…)