It was the headline (headline writers, your work matters) that led me to listen to/read this story on NPR about Donald Ray Pollock, a writer who only began to write fiction in his mid-40s. Admittedly I haven’t read his novel, although I’ve read excerpts, and it sounds like it might be a worthwhile read. I mean how can a novel about religion, serial killers and good country people not be good?
Here’s the audio link from NPR:
Here are some favorite quotes and excerpts from the accompanying article:
“When I was a kid, it was claustrophobic for me,” [Pollock] says. “From a very early age, I was thinking about escaping. … It was nice to have a lot of family around … but I just thought that I’d rather be somewhere else.”
When he first started writing, Pollock says he typed out a story by another famous writer at least once a week in order to learn how to put dialogue together and move from scene to scene.
“John Cheever, Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Yates, Denis Johnson, and the list goes on and on,” he says. “If the story wasn’t overly long, I’d type it out. And I’d carry it around with me for a week and jot notes on it, and then I’d throw it away and do another one.”
Pollock’s need to escape . . . I understand that need very deeply, even though my life was hardly as difficult as his. I think that need, as much as anything, was a catalyst driving me to write.
Then there is the love of reading . . . That’s always a consistent theme I find in writers. They were readers first. And they learned from reading: Pollock typing out stories then studying them carefully to figure out how they worked is a great method to learn. This is how writers read.