Jeffrey Eugenides loves Denis Johnson’s writing (and Vladmir Nabokov, and Saul Bellow). Jhumpa Lahiri loves Mavis Gallant, Andre Dubus, Gina Berriault. Nicole Krauss choses Thomas Bernhard, Bruno Schulz, W.G. Sebald and Danilo Kiš. These are the “writers for writers” mentioned in a discussion hosted by the New Yorker Festival last night.
A writer’s writer can be a neglected one, too much sophisticated for the large public (as Lahiri points up). A stranger, not translated (said Krauss). Or just a writer who doesn’t trade his or her original, ethical “fury” for success and more easy paths (underlined Lahiri).
Interesting talk. Lahiri is beautiful, smart and never smiles. Krauss is the cultivated, Oxbridge one. Eugenides: the witty speaker. The three of them are famous and recognized, so we could call them WWW: worldwide writers.
“A writer’s writer maintains an integrity, a certain purity of vision”,
noted Lahiri. But you can listen to her own voice. I’ve recorded a podcast. The first speaker is Eugenides, the second Krauss, the third Lahiri. Then they all mix up a bit. You’ll recognize a questioning voice too. It belongs to the fiction editor Deborah Treisman, who moderated the talk also remarking that Denis Johnson never answers the phone when she tries to reach him (“He’s always out fishing”). Johnson is definitely not an editor’s writer.
PS1: another coincidence regarding Dubus.
PS2: Bernhard, Sebald and Kiš are among my favourites. So what?