Art of Fiction 

Cracking the Winter Issue of The Paris Review

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IN ITS SECOND ISSUE under the editorship of Lorin Stein, the winter 2010 issue of The Paris Review is grounded by two very different but equally revealing Art of Fiction interviews: Stephen J. Burn's conversation with Jonathan Franzen, and Lisa Halliday's interview with Louise Erdrich.

Franzen is an author often derided for his arrogance, and he's not going to change any minds with this interview. And sure, the confidence with which he describes his ability to write a massively popular yet serious novel could be read as arrogant—if he hadn't done just that, twice, first with The Corrections and now Freedom. The years in which Freedom was written were, he says, "a decade where language was under as concerted an assault as [he's] seen in [his] lifetime.... The impulse to defend the novel, to defend the turf, is stronger than ever." Think what you will of his writing (or his persona), there's something admirable in his dogged defense of his chosen form.

The Review's other interview, with novelist Louise Erdrich, is a more relaxed affair—Erdrich cheerfully digresses into her own history of drug and alcohol use, motherhood, and her relationship with her deceased ex-husband, writer Michael Dorris. In less explicit but no less impassioned terms than Franzen, Erdrich describes her own efforts to defend the turf of the novel—her family owns a bookstore that supports Native American writers and artists. But where Franzen gives us a cerebral manifesto, Erdrich gives us a window into a fascinating life.

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