Adam Phillips | Paris Review, Art of Nonfiction

INTERVIEWER

In Monogamy, you write, “There are fundamentally two kinds of writer, just as there are two kinds of monogamist: the immaculate and the fallible. For the immaculate every sentence must be perfect, every word the inevitable one. For them, getting it right is the point. For the fallible, ‘wrong’ is only the word for people who need to be right. The fallible, that is to say, have the courage of their gaucheness; they are never quite sure what might be a good line; and they have a superstitious confidence that the bad lines somehow sponsor the good ones.” Do you find yourself in one or another of those?

PHILLIPS

By aspiration, obviously, I would want to be the fallible kind. Because I would want to feel that in the writing I could try things out and could risk being pretentious, gauche, naive, brash—things I would rather not be seen to be, in order to find out what it’s like. Anybody who writes knows you don’t simply write what you believe. You write to find out what you believe, or what you can afford to believe. So when I write something and it sounds good, I leave it in, usually, to see what it sounds like to someone else. To somebody else it might sound awful or brash, but I want to be able to have the courage of my brashness. I don’t leave things in that I know to be terrible, or that I don’t, as it were, find interesting—I don’t do that—but if there’s a doubt about it and it sounds interesting, I’ll leave it in. And I want to be free to do that, because that’s why I write. When I write, things occur to me. It’s a way of thinking. But you can perform your thinking instead of just thinking it.

Adam Phillips ao Art of Nonfiction do Paris Review.

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