I’ve been reading some of the archived Paris Review interviews on their web site. I’ve been focused mostly on the Art of Poetry ones, but this one from the Art of Fiction, with Evelyn Waugh, also caught my eye.
Pretty much the whole thing is great, but there are two parts I want to highlight here. First Waugh talks about politics and art or, more specifically, why the artist is, he thinks a reactionary:
Do you think it just to describe you as a reactionary?WAUGH
An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along; he must offer some little opposition. Even the great Victorian artists were all anti-Victorian, despite the pressures to conform.INTERVIEWER
But what about Dickens? Although he preached social reform he also sought a public image.WAUGH
Oh, that’s quite different. He liked adulation and he liked showing off. But he was still deeply antagonistic to Victorianism.
Secondly, Waugh had something to say about a question in the philosophy of mind that a friend and I have been batting around. Waugh claims to think in words instead of images or concepts:
I gather from what you said earlier that you don’t find the act of writing difficult.WAUGH
I don’t find it easy. You see, there are always words going round in my head: Some people think in pictures, some in ideas. I think entirely in words. By the time I come to stick my pen in my inkpot these words have reached a stage of order which is fairly presentable.INTERVIEWER
Perhaps that explains why Gilbert Pinfold was haunted by voices—by disembodied words.WAUGH
Yes, that’s true—the word made manifest.
The interview doesn’t develop the topic beyond that… but there it is.