Richard Russo Interview

An interview with Richard Russo, from Willow Springs 68

But every year in the PhD program I became more unhappy. I had started down a road that was only likely to get worse. I was looking at my professors at the University of Arizona, the people in literature, and seeing how difficult it was for them to find ever more and more obscure things to write about. You couldn’t just teach the books you loved, because you would never get tenure that way, and so I found myself starting down this road toward scholarship regarding second and third rank writers and some of their most obscure books. I found that I would have to buy that franchise. I would be serving that food, and you’ve got to defend it against other franchises, or other people who want into your franchise. So you become the Twain scholar or whatever. By the time I’d finished my course work and was starting to write my dissertation, I was in a pit of despair. I realized I’d made a terrible mistake that was going to affect and infect the rest of my life. I could see absolutely no way out of it, until I discovered creative writing. I discovered that, in doing all of that reading, I was studying to be a writer. Creative writing gave me another avenue, and it saved my life.

2 Comments

  • Shira Richman says:

    Just what I needed to read right now. Thanks for posting these wise words of Richard Russo.

  • Seth Marlin says:

    As undergraduate English majors, we used to joke that writing students wanted to “do,” where lit majors wanted to write about OTHERS who “did.” To be fair, this isn’t entirely accurate in hindsight, but I do think it reflects the stagnation extant in much of critical academia today, and the potential renaissance promised by the newly-divergent national literature of the last ten years. It’s encouraging to see this hope reinforced by Russo.

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