Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Authors & Literary Journals

I've often wondered how authors (especially novelists) feel about giving interviews regarding their own work. This has been brought home to me in some of Rusdhie's interviews as well as, more recently, in an interview given by Orhan Pamuk to the Paris Review.

The interview in question comes from issue 175 (the latest one I have: Note to the Paris Review I'm still waiting for issue 176, which is in all the stores). I picked it up the other day because, despite owning "My Name is Red," and "Istanbul," I had never read any of Pamuk's stuff. I was about to start "Snow," and thought I should introduce myself to Pamuk through this interview (Sorry the full text is not available on-line.)

After reading the interview and then starting Snow, something stood out to me. Pamuk mostly talked only about the first 30 pages of Snow, and he got some of the facts of the book wrong. For instance, take this from Pamuk on page 135 in the Paris Review:

Most of the people and places in the book are based on a real counterpart. For instance, the local newspaper that sells two hundred and fifty-two copies is real.

Now look at this from pages 24 of Snow:

The Border City Gazette was sold at only one outlet, just across from the National Theater, and this outlet sold on average twenty copies of each edition; including subscriptions the paper's circulation was 320, a fact that inspired not a little pride in Serdar Bey.

Why the difference in the numbers of circulation? Did Pahmuk make a mistake about his own work? Doubtful, especially given how recent Snow was completed in relation to the interview.

Was he just having fun with the interviewer, a little game to amuse himself? Quite possible. Or, as I like to think, was he attempting to take the measure of the interviewer, by limiting his discussion of the details of the book to the first 30 pages and then changing them slightly to see how the interviewer would react?

In the text of the Paris Review interview there was no reaction. Pamuk, like myself, must have been disappointed.

I'll leave you with the first question and answer from the Paris Review interview (which was done in two different sittings):

Q: How do you feel about giving interviews?

A: I sometimes feel nervous because I give stupid answers to certain pointless questions.

Pamuk: a literary prankster?

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