I'm a fiction writer, and I do write essays, but I am not a poet. And I absolutely reject the phrase 'woman writer' as anti-feminist. I wrote an essay about this as far back as 1977, at the height of the neo-feminist movement.
If an essay has a 'motive,' it is linked more to happenstance and opportunity than to the driven will. A genuine essay is not a doctrinaire tract or a propaganda effort or a broadside.
I had the idea in my twenties that a writer could immediately become the late Henry James. Henry James himself had to mature. Even Saul Bellow did.
I have lost stories and many starts of novels before. Not always as punishment for 'telling,' but more often as a result of something having gone cold and dead because of a hiatus. Telling, you see, is the same as a hiatus. It means you're not doing it.
Traveling is seeing; it is the implicit that we travel by.
The novelist's intuition for the sacred differs from the translator's interrogation of the sacred.
I don't like to read contemporary fiction while writing - I need a sense of isolation, a kind of silence, and I don't want a jumble of other people's voices or visions getting in my way. Nineteenth-century voices don't create static in that silence.
To say that such-and-such a circumstance is 'Kafkaesque' is to admit to the denigration of an imagination that has burned a hole in what we take to be modernism - even in what we take to be the ordinary fabric and intent of language. Nothing is like 'The Hunger Artist.' Nothing is like 'The Metamorphosis.'
Hebrew in America has a bemusing past. The Puritans, out of scriptural piety, once dreamed of establishing Hebrew as the national language.
In an essay, you have the outcome in your pocket before you set out on your journey, and very rarely do you make an intellectual or psychological discovery. But when you write fiction, you don't know where you are going - sometimes down to the last paragraph - and that is the pleasure of it.
People often ask how I can reject the phrase 'woman writer' and not reject the phrase 'Jewish writer' - a preposterous question. 'Jewish' is a category of civilization, culture, and intellect, and 'woman' is a category of anatomy and physiology.
All writing is presumption, of course, since no one knows what it is like to be another human being.
I don't agree with the sentiment 'write what you know.'... I think one should write what one doesn't know. The world is bigger and wider and more complex than our small subjective selves. One should prod, goad the imagination.
An article can be timely, topical, engaged in the issues and personalities of the moment; it is likely to be stale within the month. In five years, it may have acquired the quaint aura of a rotary phone. An article is usually Siamese-twinned to its date of birth.
In books, as in life, there are no second chances. On second thought: it's the next work, still to be written, that offers the second chance.
Profound subject matter can be encompassed in small space - for proof, look at any sonnet by Shakespeare!
I wanted to use what I was, to be what I was born to be - not to have a 'career', but to be that straightforward obvious unmistakable animal, a writer.