Rebecca Makkai Quotes

  1. I’ve only cried at one book, but I’m too embarrassed to tell you which. It wasn’t terribly intellectual. I will admit, though, to crying when I’ve read books aloud to my elementary class. We read a biography of Gandhi once, and it was very difficult to read the part where Gandhi was killed, because they were waiting for a happy ending.
  2. The times I’ve tried not to be funny, it’s never worked, and the times I’m trying not to be dark and just be funny, that never works, either. As varied as my subject matter is, I think the worldview is pretty consistent: seeing darkness and seeing humor.
  3. There’s a great social component to being a writer, to being an artist.
  4. We’re all going about trying to make beauty in the world and trying to make order out of chaos. And that’s what art is.
  5. Sometimes I wish I could go back through time to meet Proust, just so I could give him my asthma inhaler. The poor guy.
  6. I did teach elementary school for quite a while, and so I didn’t have to reach too far back for the titles and authors that populate the early chapters ‘of The Borrower.’
  7. Despite its challenges, the novel offers an opportunity to live in one story for years of your imaginative life. There’s a tremendous richness to that.
  8. With short stories, you can always see the whole, but it’s just so hard to get everything you want into that small form.
  9. My sister’s a musician. Everyone else in our family, it’s either academics or artists of one kind or another. And those are the people that I think I like to hang out with, too. I think, you know, they’re always interesting; they lead interesting lives, and I think they’re important for everyone to read about because everyone is an artist in a way.
  10. In a short story, you can use someone – we’re only going to be with that person for maybe 10 pages, and they can have sort of a one note personality. And in a novel, you need to have arrows pointing more than one direction for that person.
  11. Novelist and poet David Huddle is a quiet but fabulous writer, and he does adolescent longing better than anyone I know.
  12. I have the distinct feeling that when I’m old, and I look back on my life, my thirties will be one huge blur. There’s a lot that gets neglected: exercise, dishes, laundry, my poor garden. I try to prioritize the important but non-urgent things over the unimportant but urgent things.
  13. Writing a short story is like painting a picture on the head of a pin. And just getting everything to fit is – sometimes seems impossible. Writing a novel, though, is – has its own challenges of scope. And I think of that as painting a mural, where the challenge is that if you are close enough to work on it, you’re too close to see the whole thing.
  14. I taught myself to read when I was three by comparing the letters in my Mother Goose book with the rhymes I had memorised.
  15. When you talk to an author – to any artist, really – you learn something about how they do what they do. I’ve never come away from that kind of experience feeling disillusioned, as if the magician had explained his tricks. I always find a greater appreciation for the form.
  16. I grew up writing. It was very natural in my household. My father was a poet, and his mother had been a novelist back in Hungary. I don’t think I really thought about it being my career until high school, which is still pretty early, but it was a while there of just assuming this was something everyone did all day long.

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