- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“Write something beautiful. Write something strong.”


Happy birthday, John Edgar Wideman! 78 today! Here are some quotes from his writings and interviews.

“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up. But the writing is a way of not allowing those things to destroy you.”

“I respect good writing, but the stuff that keeps me going, that I want to come back to, has to have an edge.”

“What’s fascinating to me about African-American speech is its spontaneity, the requirement that you not simply have a repertoire of vocabulary or syntactical devices/constructions, but that you come prepared to do something with that repertoire, those structures, and do something in an attempt to meet the person on a level that both uses the language, mocks the language, and recreates the language. It’s a very active exchange. But at the same time as I say that, the silences and the refusal to speak is just as much a part, in another way, of African-American speech.”

“I love the freedom of just starting out. That’s the whole point for me.”

“I want my interests to be piqued. My imagination is restless. I don’t work systematically. That’s not true; I do work systematically because I work hard. I’m very demanding of myself.”

“All kind of writing is difficult. Any good genre of writing is difficult to do. It takes a certain kind of genius and skill and I respect it greatly. Distinctions are invidious. You read something and it grabs you and you enjoy the hell out of it and that’s that—Thank you, author, thank you, book.”

“I want my fiction to have kind of a verity, a kind of weight, a kind of substance. That goes back to the fact that any sort of writing is a projection, is a kind of backwards and forwards tripping into one’s own life.”


  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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