Quotes by: Kathryn Harrison
Photo by Joyce Ravid
March 20, 1961 |
'Madame Bovary' advanced slowly, as slowly as it would have to have, given an author who held himself accountable to each word, that it be the right word, of which there could be only one.
I can't work out much about myself or what I see in the world around me unless I do it through writing.
Lives that are so conspicuous have a claustrophobic feeling. Once you're in charge of running a country, you're under scrutiny all the time. That's a trap.
A lot of writers dwell on their relationships with their mothers, but only a few are worth reading.
Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I've never had the sense I was 'making up' a character. It feels more like watching people reveal themselves, ever more deeply, more intimately.
I got history solidly under my belt, reading Russian history and biographies. I couldn't change the facts. I could only play with how the people might have responded to the facts of their lives.
It's hard for me not to have a great deal of compassion for the last Romanov family because, really, I don't know if a politically savvy ruler would have been able to make the situation turn out much differently.
I have at last admitted that not only was I angry with my mother, but, in fact, I wanted to destroy her as a child. And I was so concerned to be a woman who was different from my mother that I had this vast architecture of rules.
How much of a book review is about the reviewer? Sometimes it's mostly about the reviewer!
In terms of going back and forth between fiction and nonfiction - in which I'll include memoir, biography, and true crime - is that one relieves the other.
I'm always sorry to finish a book, to let go of characters I love, people I've struggled to understand for years, people who evolve before me.
I work in a small study on the top floor of a brownstone in Brooklyn - it's about 75 square feet, 11 taken up by book shelves along one wall.
I am perfectly capable of writing things about myself that one doesn't discuss in polite company, but I was raised by people who said you don't discuss politics, you don't discuss religion, and you certainly don't discuss people's sex lives.
I reread 'Nicholas and Alexandra' in my early twenties, and I never forgot the story.
Because the kind of nonfiction I write has a plot, the events and transactions that make up a life, nonfiction offers me a break from plotting.
I think in terms of the parents that I had, I sort of drew a bad hand, or bad karma; who knows? And I did have a family that was complicated, with some quite eccentric members. So there was a lot of grist there.
We know the seductive alchemy of art. To transform private anguish into a narrative of truth, if not beauty; to make sense where there was none; to bring order out of chaos - these are the promises art makes.
One of the things I find exciting about Joan of Arc is how clearly the story of her life reveals the creation of myth, a process in which every one of us is involved - every one of us who tells stories and all those who listen, each informing the other.
I like vampires, tuberculosis, anything to do with blood. Then I read a biography of Rasputin and found out he'd had this daughter who had become a famous lion tamer and been billed as the daughter of the mad monk who was able to hypnotize animals with her eyes. It gave me a vision.
I'll never have so compelling a figure within my embrace as Joan of Arc; there will never be a book whose last chapter is so very hard to get right.
I've always been interested in the intersection between our rational and our unconscious lives.
Like all holy figures whose earthly existence separates them from the broad mass of humanity, a saint is a story, and Joan of Arc's is like no other.
The power of 'Madame Bovary' stems from Flaubert's determination to render each object of his scrutiny exactly as it looks, or sounds or smells or feels or tastes.