cover image Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews

Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews

Review Paris Review, Paris Review. Random House (NY), $23 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-679-77129-6

Sixteen women writers--Dorothy Parker, Marianne Moore, Maya Angelou, Susan Sontag and Anne Sexton among them--discuss the art and craft of writing both fiction and nonfiction in this captivating, instructive compendium of interviews conducted by Donald Hall, Elisabeth Sifton and others for Plimpton's Paris Review. Offhand remarks frequently furnish unexpected new slants on the life and work of these writers. For example, Katherine Anne Porter illumines the autobiographical component behind Ship of Fools and the sense of history that pervades her fiction (she claims descent from a colonel who was a member of George Washington's circle during the Revolution). Simone de Beauvoir takes stock of the divided, conflicted women portrayed in her novels. Nadine Gordimer describes growing up in a South African gold mining town with a neurotic, suffocating mother and an unhappy Jewish-Lithuanian immigrant father. A revised update of a 1988 volume, this attractively designed collection includes interviews published between 1960 and 1994. Each is accompanied by a brief biographical-critical profile, a photograph of the subject and a facsimile manuscript page. Also here are Toni Morrison on the challenges facing black writers in a world dominated by white culture; Joyce Carol Oates on her working methods; and talks with Joan Didion, P.L. Travers, Eudora Welty, Rebecca West, Elizabeth Bishop and Mary McCarthy. (May)