This paperback original is a kind of best-of remix: 16 interviews selected from the echt lit mag’s 53-year history, the most recent never before published in book form, from Dorothy Parker (Issue 13, 1956) to Joan Didion (Issue 176, 2006). The “writers at work” series, of course, has long been manna for critics, fans, or the would-be novelist or poet and creative-writing-workshop addict intent on getting a behind-the-text look at the creative process as well as a peak at the more mundane aspects of work habits and routines. Here, it allows us to ask the question, as Philip Roth once put it in a PR interview, “Is he as crazy as I am?” What delights in this first of a projected three-volume series, is the inclusion of the obvious Pulitzer- and Nobel-heavyweights (Bellow, Borges, Hemingway, Elizabeth Bishop) alongside less likely subjects as poet Jack Gilbert, editor Robert Gottlieb, and noir master James M. Cain, who offers: “Writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It’s not all inspiration.”

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