Death looks different when you see it in a parent or somebody of your parents’ age than when you see it in a contemporary or a dear friend who’s even a couple years younger. It was a limited closeness, but it was a very intense closeness we had as writer buddies, and it was played out mostly in biweekly telephone calls. And I had the sense that I could pick up the phone, call him, and anything I was feeling, however strange, that had to do with the writing life, or negotiating some position for one’s self in the culture, all I had to do was start a sentence and he would finish the sentence and say, yep. And I would do the same for him.
Every good writer I know needs to go into some deep, quiet place to do work that is fully imagined. And what the Internet brings is lots of vulgar data. It is the antithesis of the imagination. It leaves nothing to the imagination.
[Oh, the irony]
His [David Foster Wallace] instinct was to keep people at a distance and let the work speak for itself, and I do know that he enjoyed the status he’d attained. He might have denied it, but he denied all sorts of obviously true things at different moments. He came from an academic family, and the fact that lots of books were being written about his work really was gratifying to him. In the way that sibling competition works, I’ve consistently maintained a position of not caring about that stuff. And Dave’s level of purely linguistic achievement was turf that I knew better than to try to compete on.
I want to bring pleasure with everything I write. Intellectual pleasure, emotional pleasure, linguistic pleasure, aesthetic pleasure. I have in my mind five hundred examples of novels that have given me pleasure, and I try to do work that gives back some of what those five hundred books have given me.