“It is ‘beyondness,’ or that depth that you reach in a poem that keeps you returning to it. I suppose you have to like being mystified. That which can’t be explained away or easily understood in a poem, that place which is unreachable or mysterious, is where the poem becomes ours, finally becomes the possession of the reader. I mean, in the act of figuring it out, of pursuing meaning, of trying to characterize the experience of it, the reader is absorbing the poem; even though there’s an absence there or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, it becomes more and more his.”—Mark Strand
“It was amazing. I couldn’t believe that he was white! Really. Because, I mean, his language was complicated, but I read the sonnets, and I memorised 50 sonnets. But the one that made me think, “How could he know what it feels like to be me?” is – ‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes / I all alone bemoan my outcast state / And trouble a deaf Heaven with my bootless cries / And look upon myself and curse my fate / Wishing me like one more rich in hope / Featured like him, like him with friends possessed / Desiring that man’s art and that man’s scope / And with what I most enjoy contented least.’ How could he know that, almost five centuries earlier? Oh, no. I mean, I wouldn’t have been too surprised if somebody had shown me that he was really a black girl in Stamps.”—Maya Angelou on discovering Shakespeare aged nine or ten
Jeremy Isaacs:I talked to a writer the other day in this series, the English writer and novelist Jeanette Winterson, and she said, “ There’s no such thing as autobiography. There’s only art and lies.”
Maya Angelou:[She laughs] I love that! Well… that’s good.
Jeremy Isaacs:Do you reckon you’re… To what extent is the book a construct and to what extent is it reportage of what actually happened?
Maya Angelou:Oh no, I think that that’s a wonderful statement, because all art is lies, all lies are art. It’s like all riddles are blues and all blues are sad. Or funny, or something. I mean, you can’t say that… that I have spoken truth to you, even though I say this is a red blouse. Now, red to me may mean something utterly different to you. And so, my attempt to translate, to describe what I see, may be so absolutely different. What I mean by square may mean something other than what you mean by square. I believe that people can tell so many facts that they obscure the truth. You can describe the places where, the people who, the times when, the methods how, et cetera. And never get to the truth of the matter. You just blind people with data and numbers and stuff. Percentages. But the heart of the thing is lost, or beshrouded. Now, I have no hesitation in trying to get to the truth of the matter. And putting five or six facts and pieces of data together, to try to show, “Look at this, look at this, this is human, this is who we are, this is what we can stand.” So, art and lies, I like that.
“So why deliberately conceive characters who test your affection? Because in real life, people are not always perfectly charming. I try to duplicate in fiction the complex, contradictory, and infuriating people I meet on the other side of my study door. When fiction works, readers can develop the same nuanced, conflicted relationships to characters that they have to their own friends and family. I’m less concerned that you love my characters than that you recognise them. Human beings have rough edges. Authors who write exclusively about ethical, admirable, likeable characters are not writing about real people.”—Lionel Shriver
“Looking for a way to create the character of Patrick Bateman, Christian Bale stumbled onto a Tom Cruise appearance on David Letterman. According to American Psycho director Mary Harron, Bale saw in Cruise “this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes” and Bale subsequently based the character of Bateman on that.”—American Pyscho trivia
“I play back everything that has happened to me before this. I want to ask Big Guy if he is doing this, too. I want him to know what it clearly seems to me: that if it’s true your life flashes past your eyes before you die, then it is also the truth that your life rushes forth when you are ready to start to truly be alive.”—Amy Hempel, “The Most Girl Part of You”