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Kaze: Ian McEwan Knows the Feeling, Too

You may remember a post of three or four weeks ago in which I ran some remarks by Tobias Wolff on achieving that particular emotional/physiological/metaphysical state I will henceforth refer to as “writer’s high.” Lord knows you needn’t be a writer of Tobias Wolff’s caliber to achieve this particular kind of joy, but people are clearly more likely to want to hear you talk about it if you are. Over the years, The Paris Review in its interviews of notable writers has caught one or another of them taking a shot at describing the sensation. From Issue No. 162, in 2002, here’s Ian McEwan, author of—among other works—Atonement, Saturday, and On Chesil Beach:
“The joy is in the surprise. It can be as small as a felicitous coupling of noun and adjective. Or a whole new scene, or the sudden emergence of an unplanned character who simply grows out of a phrase. Literary criticism, which is bound to pursue meaning, can never really encompass the fact that some things are on the page because they gave the writer pleasure. A writer whose morning is going well, whose sentences are forming well, is experiencing a calm and private joy. This joy itself then liberates a richness of thought that can promote new surprises. Writers crave these moments, these sessions. If I may quote the second page of Atonement, this is the project’s highest point of fulfillment. Nothing else—cheerful launch party, packed readings, positive reviews—will come near it for satisfaction.”

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