Christopher Barzak
Meditations in an Emergency

A.S. Byatt!!!!
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Haha, I have gotten caught up in asking famous author's questions when they have special interviews online. Recently I did so with Ursula LeGuin, and now today A.S. Byatt was online doing a chat. I asked a question and she answered it! (Only some got through). Here is a link, my question is tagged as a question from Youngstown, Ohio.

And here is just the excerpt of my question, if you're not interested in reading her whole transcript:

Youngstown, Ohio: Ms. Byatt, I adore your work, and recently read the newest collection of stories. One of the things I noticed in this collection is a conversation that seems they all seem to be sharing about fiction and reality. There's an idea in them about what our lives consist of, and what we believe they consist of, and the gap in between. For example, in "Raw Material", the creative writing teacher who says write what you know, and is inundated with therapeutic stories of domestic strife and violence. He's caught up in the elderly woman's story about blacking a stove, but it turns out she in fact has been suffering some sort of domestic violence for years. It seems to be making some sort of comment on the threshold of fiction, and what we allow to come in, and what stays out. What do you think the act of storytelling is for? And why is it important to write stories about storytelling? Do you think, perhaps, that we have lost the sense of its importance in our contemporary culture?

A.S.Byatt: It's a very good question. I think we had lost the sense of the importance of storytelling, and certainly the English novel went through a long period of just describing personal feelings or being symbolic. But I think recently there has been a huge surge of interest in non-realistic storytelling, such as fairy tale or adventures. I admire the work of two young British writers, Lawrence Norfolk and David Mitchell, both of whom are flamboyant master storytellers. It is also true that Freudian psychoanalysis is a form of storytelling. People tell the story of their own lives, including the dreams, in order to understand them. But I am increasingly interested in stories that move beyond one person's experience. I think we had lost those and are getting them back. In England, there is an increasing art of storytelling for children out loud, both old traditional stories and new ones.

And also, in case you don't read the transcript, this was a beautiful question and answer from and for someone else:

Washington, D.C.: A writing instructor once told me we should all "write for the smartest reader we know." And yet your work has been criticized for being too opaque, too erudite. How do you balance the two? Do you have trusted readers you turn to for insight? Or do you write for your smartest reader, and just hope for the best for the rest of us?

A.S.Byatt: My answer to this question has changed over the years. Before I wrote Possession, I was often criticized for being erudite or complicated, and I used to say, I write for myself or for Henry James. I had a very clear idea of the ghost of Henry James as moral support. However, when Possession became a bestseller, I got so many letters from so many kinds of readers that I decided there are readers who can be interested in almost anything--including erudition--as long as you also tell a story. I enjoy meeting readers because writing is very lonely--and I enjoy being alone--but I am constantly amazed to meet people who have read and liked my books.

American editors speak of some imaginary person, The American Reader, who will not understand things. I have formed the view that they are speaking of somebody who would never buy books anyway. America is full of readers of all different sorts who love books in many different ways, and I keep meeting them. And I think editors should look after them, and make less effort to please people who don't actually like books.

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