John Freeman on interviewing novelists

'How to Read a Novelist' by John Freeman
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Former Granta editor John Freeman has an interview history that could make the most experienced journalist jealous. During the past 13 years, he's talked with novelists from Norman Mailer to Toni Morrison.

His latest book, "How to Read a Novelist," is a collection of the 55 best profiles.

"The only thing an interviewer can do to capture what a novelist truly does is to make them talk and tell stories, and think aloud," he writes in his book.

From The Seattle Times review:

He is good at getting writers to open up, including press-shy types like the late David Foster Wallace and John Irving, who we learn has built a "full-size wrestling arena" onto his massive Vermont home.

Some of the collection's best moments come when the writers discuss the finer points of their own work (in the same way The Paris Review's "Art of Fiction" interviews can be so fascinating).

Toni Morrison is particularly elucidating on this front. "The language has to have its own music," she tells Freeman. "I don't mean ornate because I want it to work with no sound, while you read it. Still, it has to have that spoken quality: It's oral — a blend of standard English and the vernacular street language."

Freeman joins The Daily Circuit to discuss the art of interviewing novelists.

Read an excerpt from his book here.

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