Happy birthday, Edmund White! 79, today!
“[T]here’s more to contemporary literature than American coffee-cup realism.”
“The novel is alive and thriving through various strategies of renovation. The merging of fiction and reality, of memoir and narrative, is one great current source of strength. The reimagining of the historical novel is a second. And the third is the admission of new voices previously unheard or silenced.”
“There is no greater pleasure than to lie between clean sheets, listen to music, and read under a strong light.”
“Gratitude is my chief erotic emotion.”
“I like to read great books not because I’m hoping to imitate them but because I want to remind myself how good you have to be to be any good at all. We won’t be read in the light of other writers in our zip code or decade but as we compare to Proust, Joyce, and Nabokov. History has set the bar very high, and one must jump over it, not do the limbo under it.”
“For the real movements of a life are gradual, then sudden; they resist becoming anecdotes, they pulse like quasars from long-dead stars to reach the vivid planet of the present, they drift like fog over the ship until the spread sails are merely panels of gray in grayer air and surround becomes object, as in those perceptual tests where figure and ground reverse, the kissing couple in profile turn into the outlines of the mortuary urn that holds their own ashes. Time wears down resolve—then suddenly violence, something irrevocable flashes out of nowhere, there are thrashing fins and roiled, blood-streaked water, death floats up on its side, eyes bulging.”
“Suffering does make us more sensitive until it crushes us completely.”
“Biography can be the most middle-class of all forms, the judgment of little people avenging themselves on the great.”
“I still feel that sincerity and realism are avant-garde, or can be, just as I did when I started out.”
“How thrilling to discover one had depths, how consoling to find them less polluted than the shallows, how encouraging to identify the enemy not as a fissure in the will but as a dead fetus in the specimen jar of the unconscious.”
“Being up on something is a way of dismissing it. To espouse any point of view is a danger—it might leave us stuck with last year’s cause. Prized for their novelty alone, ideas, gimmicks, trends become equivalent, interchangeable.”
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.