I have never liked the 'Been there done that' thing... You hear that all the time from people, and I think it's just based on pure insecurity... Each person is going to have their own unique take on something.
I don't believe that intelligence can be reduced to a number, frankly. But I can see how doing exactly that produces a useful sorting mechanism in our society in order to separate children into categories of promising and doomed. The tests seem arbitrary and without real scientific value and yet have lasting consequences.
In fiction, there happens to be a long history of creative engagement with marginality, with the very human components of society that others don't want to think about, from writers such as Dostoyevsky, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud to Genet and Sarrazin and right on up to Norman Mailer.
I'd say it's okay to be political and to be a writer. Those streams can be separate, and they can be connected; for me, they're both. Life is political, and I'm interested in my community and in a lot of issues - some of them American, some global.
I knew that I wanted to write about a very young woman because I wanted to see the eyes of the art world in a fresh or even slightly naive way. Because there's something very honest about entering a room and not having a read on everyone there.
My older brother, Jake, and I had a bohemian childhood. My parents are deeply unconventional people from the beatnik generation. They weren't married, and I thought that was normal. We called them by their first names.
I am just getting into Zora Neale Hurston, who is possibly a much better writer than the critics and rivals who tried to erase her from history, resulting in a life in which she worked as a maid and died in a welfare nursing home. She's clever. She does something modern to the sentence.
Some writers think that fiction is the space of great neutrality where all humans share the same concerns, and we are all alike. I don't think so. I'm interested in class warfare because I think it's real.
Story and plot, not historical facts, are the engine of a novel, but I was committed to working through the grain of actual history and coming to something, an overall effect, which approximated truth.
I always collect images, maybe because I was working with historic material - but even if I were working with contemporary material, I would do the same thing. I keep a kind of index of them while I'm working. I find them incredibly useful, not so much to illustrate a time, but to give some sense of the feeling of a time.
I'm hesitant to ever take on the crest of the veteran. So I don't know who I am to warn the younger writer about the perils to come. I think maybe the most dangerous influence is to think you have all the answers and should be giving counsel.
Tone is somewhat totalising in that, once I locate it, it tells me what kind of syntax to use, what word choices to make, how much white space to leave on the page, what sentence length, what the rhythmic patterning will be. If I can't find the tone, I sometimes try narrating through the point of view of someone else.
I get the feeling that people from outside the world of contemporary art see it as deserving of mockery, in an emperor's-new-clothes sort of way. I think that's not right and that it's just because they don't understand the discourse. The art world is filled with vibrancy.
Futurism eventually got marred by its link to Fascism, but early on, it was totally avant-garde, and I wanted to dream a phantom link from the early futurists to the politically radical Italy of the 1970s, a time of fun, play, subversion - if also violence and mayhem.
Telluride has an incredible history and reputation, and I've long known of it as a unique entity that makes a place for writers - one more aspect of this exceptional film festival in the Colorado Alps.