Daniel Mendelsohn Quotes

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  • I would argue, for perspective's sake, that the arc of a really literary work is precisely that it both intensely reflects, and simultaneously transcends the conditions of its making. I would say that is the difference between literature and other kinds of writing. That is what the literary is - it ultimately doesn't matter what his circumstances were. And the thing that you were just saying about being sympathetic to Brontë and the fact that she could only write what she wrote when she wrote it... that's true. But look at that novel, which means so much to so many people.

    Writing   Mean   People  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • You come out of the gate, you've got something new, you're subversive, nobody's ever done it before. But by your fifth novel and your fourth literary prize and your house in the country, can you really claim to be subversive?

    Country   House   Done  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • The three most written-about subjects of all time are Jesus, the Civil War, and the Titanic.

    Jesus   War   Three  
    Daniel Mendelsohn (2012). “Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture”, p.82, New York Review of Books
  • I find that readers are very interested in how things are translated. I just turned in the first part of this father-son Odyssey, and there is a part when I digress and explain that the name Odysseus is related to the word for pain. Like "-odyne" in the word "anodyne," pain. It's the same, "-odyne" as in Odysseus. He's the man who both suffers endlessly, in trying to get home, but also inflicts a lot of suffering on everyone he visits.

    Pain   Home   Men  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • I love things that are brave enough to be nakedly about what our lives are actually built of, when you're wild about someone, or you love something, or you're a fool, or you embarrass yourself. And I don't think the answer is cynicism. Cynicism is not the cure for sentimentality. Cynicism is its own form of sentimentality. For example, I tried to watch Breaking Bad. After three episodes, I thought, I don't like this guy. I don't care about him. But you can see why people tell themselves that they think this is real. But real doesn't mean bad.

    Real   Mean   Thinking  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • I was interested in all kinds of things, whether it be Avatar, Mad Men, Troy, 300, Battlestar Gallactica, or the poems of Horace and Sappho. I always joke about this to my students, who can't quite wrap their mind around the fact that you can have a Ph.D in classics, but not do that full time. I never wanted to write anything with footnotes for the rest of my life. I always think of what I do as the kind of conversation you'd have with somebody, like a good friend, when you've gone and seen a movie together, and you come home and you start talking about it.

    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Gay people, certainly gay people of my generation, at least of a certain echelon - middle-class Americans - have binocular vision. We all are raised by straight people and grow up with straight people and in straight families, but we all have this totally other way of looking at things. Increasingly as I get deeper into middle age, that is why I resist plunking for any one camp. Because I have this delicious sort of experience of being able to see things in two ways.

    Growing Up   Gay   People  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • I have nothing but great respect for great scholars. But I was in grad school in the '80s and '90s, at the height of the theory craziness. It had a big part in why I ended up becoming a writer rather than a scholar, because I thought, "I just can't play these games." I was interested in literature because I loved literature, and so much of the theoretical positioning, at that moment 25 years ago, was antagonistic to literature. You know, trying to show that Jane Austen is a terrible person because she wasn't thinking about colonialism.

    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Shopping as lifestyle is really a sub-cultural problem. When the strictures that set you apart or oppressed you, disappear, is there a way, legitimately, to maintain your sense of specialness and difference? And how do you express that? Does it just become a kind of kitsch? You can say this of gay people, but it's true for Jewish people, Italian Americans, everyone who deals with it. It's a question of assimilation. How can you be assimilated and special at the same time?

    Gay   Italian   People  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • We are living in an era of such interesting new forms, and certainly narrative non-fiction has emerged as a major form. People who are great writers don't have to write novels anymore.

    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • What if The Odyssey has no more validity or authenticity than one of the other stories that you hear Odysseus telling? Whoever created The Odyssey was incredibly hip to stuff that we think, in our post-modernist, post-structuralist era, we're uncovering for the first time; but we aren't.

    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Opening things up not closing them off is my job. I'm doing that for my reader. You know, Bob Gottlieb always says, "Criticism is a service industry." I take that very seriously. I do the research so I can tell you interesting things. It's not condescending, it's educational.

    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Repression is good for cultural achievement. Let's face it. What are gay boys going to be like? I always like to say the 19th-century gay boy was Oscar Wilde, the 20th-century gay boy was Stonewall and ACT UP. And in the 21st century, we have blocking people on Grindr. That's what we've accomplished. Without some kind of traction.

    Block   Gay   Boys  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • The writers we absorb when we're young bind us to them, sometimes lightly, sometimes with iron. In time, the bonds fall away, but if you look very closely you can sometimes make out the pale white groove of a faded scar, or the telltale chalky red of old rust.

    Fall   Iron   White  
    "The American Boy". www.newyorker.com. January 7, 2013.
  • In the pre-Internet age you had to find gay things - or things that were slightly radioactive with erotic interest. You had to go to the library, you had to find the books; you had to find the coded things. When everything's available and everything's okay, what does it become? It becomes shopping. We're shopping all the time, basically, whether for objects, or people. On Manhunt or Grindr, or whatever. It's click to buy.

    Book   Gay   People  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Life is not bad, and it doesn't look more real if it's ugly or it's gritty. Think of your own life. Most of what's in your own life, hopefully, is exactly that. Friendship and love and passion for movies and cartoons and comic books, whatever it is that you love. Most of the way we live our lives involves looking for pleasure and beauty and happiness and affection. Real artists don't use reflexive clichés about things. It's about honoring the reality of people's lives, which defies conventions and clichés and expectations. People are interesting, period.

    Real   Book   Passion  
    Source: www.interviewmagazine.com
  • Closeness can lead to emotions other than love. It's the ones who have been too intimate with you, lived in too close quarters, seen too much of your pain or envy or, perhaps more than anything, your shame, who, at the crucial moment, can be too easy to cut out, to exile, to expel, to kill off.

    Pain   Cutting   Envy  
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