Should Writing Hurt?

A Conversation With Master Fictioneer Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews and Joseph McElroy met last week to talk—about the writing of fiction, strange maps of New York, and other topics—and celebrate the release of Mathews’s The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (Dalkey Archive). Mathews, the author of five novels and several volumes of poetry and nonfiction, is the sole American member of the Oulipo, the legendary Paris-based “workshop for potential literature,” whose members have included Italo Calvino and Georges Perec. On October 15 he was decorated with the title of Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. McElroy’s eighth novel, Actress in the House, is forthcoming from Overlook next year. Village Voice

I wanted to quote some particularly pithy piece of Matthews’ wisdom as a ‘hook’ to this interview, but I wound up wanting to quote every paragraph. I can’t wait for the bookstore to open…