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a conversation with Alexander Theroux by Steven Moore

http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/a-conversation-with-alexander-theroux-by-steven-moore/

An excerpt from the interview with Alexander Theroux

"SM: When writing “Three Wogs,” were you conscious of working in any particular literary tradition, or in the manner of any specific writer? “The Wife of God,” for example, is highly reminiscent of Firbank.

AT: Well, I had read Firbank by then. I’ve always admired stylists. I put the writers of bumphable, ready-to-wear prose, calculated to sell, guaranteed not to shock, in the same category as artists who can’t draw. There is a lack of bravery and a lot of fraud in them. I have tried never to write a book that didn’t attempt something new in the way of narrative technique. Writing is an assault on cliche. I find little to admire in writers who make no attempt at originality. (I remember, among other things, effortfully working to make the perambulations in London of Roland McGuffey recapitulate the lines of the Union Jack.) It’s death commercially, of course, but I knew from the beginning that I was too opinionated, literate, and unconventional to enjoy a widespread reputation. It doesn’t bother me in the least. I’ve always been too busy to make money. I’m among the freest people I know.

SM: You mean that?

AT: In the sense of not needing fame, yes. A psychiatrist once told me, “You’re always trying to get out of the world.” So? We all have to manage that one day. Maybe I’m only practicing my technique.

SM: Something Darconville shares.

AT: And Marina, in “An Adultery.” There is a method, a deliberateness in a way of writing that has its parallel in the way of living. I’m talking about being loyal to your own vision, not living by borrowed apocalypse or polluting your dreams, in life or art, just for success. It’s interesting, fashion is the enemy. True style means more than anything a refusal to compromise.

SM: You mean to be true to yourself?

AT: Basically. Write the books you should, be the person you are. I wanted to write a “roman d’analyse,” for example, with “An Adultery.” A new genre. Plot didn’t interest me in the least. Character is plot, anyway. Start delineating a figure—merely describe a person—and he or she will begin to act, do things, go in a particular direction. I set the novel up as a syllogism and purposely wrote balancing rhythmic and arhythmic sentences. I think its rewards come only if you’re willing to think, to come to terms with what I set out to question, sort through, analyze. (pause) Nothing there for the Leon Uris crowd—beach readers, military minds, people who flip pages to pass time. I wanted the book to be what it was, no self-promotion, no hook for a publishing scheme. There’s a mystical passivity in refusing the entrepreneurial."
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