James Salter on Writing and Travel

James SalterJames Salter discusses the relationship between writing and travel from an old Paris Review interview:

INTERVIEWER: Does the travel help your writing?

SALTER: It’s essential for me. There is no situation like the open road, and seeing things completely afresh. I’m used to traveling. It’s not a question of meeting or seeing new faces particularly, or hearing new stories, but of looking at life in a different way. It’s the curtain coming up on another act.I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep on the move. Travel is natural. Furthermore, many men of ancient times died on the road, and the image is a strong one. Kings of Arabia, when they are buried, are not given great tombs. They are buried on the side of the road beneath ordinary stones. One thing I saw in England long ago struck me and has always stayed with me. I was going to visit someone in a little village, walking from the railway station across the fields, and I saw an old man, perhaps in his seventies, with a pack on his back. He looked to be a vagabond, dignified, somewhat threadbare, marching along with his staff. A dog trotted at his heels. It was an image I thought should be the final one of a life. Traveling on.

“Let’s get down to where the blood is, the bone is…”

Found these interviews with writer Harry Crews via Mike Cane over at the eBook Test blog. As expected, Crews is salty, slightly insane, and yet spot on about a lot of things. Some favorites:

“All of fiction is about one of two things: love or the absence of love, nothing else…I’m not sure if he’s wrong, I’m sure he’s right either, but he might be.”

“The writer’s job is to get naked, to hide nothing, to look away from nothing, to look at it, to not blink, to not be embarrassed by it, or ashamed of it. Strip it down and let’s get to where the blood is, the bone is…”

And Harry’s great insight: “The Old Man and the Sea is not about fishing.”

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Paying the Bills

It’s tough being a starving artist…. Or a starving writer for that matter.

Then again it always has been. Publishing seems to go through this cyclical lament of the loss of the glory days every other year or so. “The market is fragmented!” “People are too occupied with TV, video games, and DVDs!” “Even the big authors are not selling!”

Perhaps, perhaps not. Keep in mind that most of the big authors we worship as the giants upon which the industry is built starved just as much as today’s small-to-midlist authors. Hell, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book royalties for 1932 and 1933 combined equaled out to a measly $50. That sucks even by Depression standards. And keep in mind that he had already published The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise by then. Bukowski, for all his bravado and debauchery, made sure his ass was at the post office everyday, on time, so he could keep a steady paycheck rolling in. Kurt Vonnegut worked in a PR firm in Schenectady, NY while writing Player Piano. He quit in 1951 to write full-time but still worked day jobs that included running a car dealership and the lowest of the low for an author — writing ad copy. Whenever I hear someone complain about not having enough time to write or not having a means to “focus on the art,” I love to throw “Yeah, but Vonnegut wrote PR copy” back at them.
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