INTERVIEW: LUCY CORIN
Like many practicing and publishing writers, you teach in a university. What about the university environment is most beneficial to creative writers?
Well, I can't honestly answer this question without mentioning the changes that are happening in our current university system. When I was making choices about how to make my way as a writer, I saw the university as the closest thing in our culture to a place free from market concerns, where artists and thinkers were valued for the way they contributed to the history of making and thinking, rather than their ability to feed a proven desire for some product (ie making things that we already know people want to consume/buy). I was right in some ways and in some ways not. Personally I have benefited hugely from universities: I get money from them to live on and I get artistic and intellectual friends from them, I get my mind challenged from them, and I get access to people with more power than I have who are apt to be interested in what I care about and do. I still don't know of another way to support myself that also allows time and mental space to write. As research and education are privatized, this is less and less the case, and I think university jobs are increasingly filled by people who are supposed to draw attention/funding to the institution because they are successful in the marketplace or re-enforce existing trends. Certainly a lot of good art happens in and because of university support and community, but a lot happens regardless of it, and despite it. More and more I find myself interested in what is possible outside of the university, and I think the next generation of interesting artists is going to have to create structures to support what it does, as existing structures become less and less relevant to what they're doing.
What's the one novel not nearly enough writers have read, and why should they read it?
Too many people read Beckett as a playwright and they should look at him as a novelist-- or better, as a *writer.* No one can show you the implications of uniting form and content as he does. It doesn't matter which book you read, which is most "successful" -- the point is the completeness of his approach, the way of doing narrative, work by work, and within that, line by line and word by word, taking nothing for granted. For a fiction writer, that radical option for conceiving of the point of telling a story, even a long story, on the page, is crucial. It says that you can write a novel by taking a sensibility that is true to you-- your mind, your experience--and following it through to a built (ie fictional, dramatized) space made of language, and that this is what creates meaning about the world.
As someone who frequently publishes work in anthologies and literary magazines, what's the best advice you would give a beginning writer when sending out their work for the first time?
Don't ask a publication to like what you do if you don't do what they like.
LUCY CORIN is the author of the novel Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls and the short story collection The Entire Predicament.