FIVE QUESTIONS FOR JAMES GUIDA
by Mira Ptacin
March 30, 2011
1. What is your writing routine?
The main thing is getting out of the house — that way I can fool myself into thinking that I’m not really working at all, but just idling around. Sometimes I’ll go to the library, often to a park or cafe. I’m happiest when it’s warm enough to write outdoors and it seems like everything around me is participating.
2. What is your definition of “truth” in terms of writing creative nonfiction?
Though I’m not always a fan of Karl Kraus, there’s that line of his about aphorisms being either half truths or one-and-a-half truths. Probably anyone who enjoys the form can assent to that. The question is not so much, is it true for everyone in all cases, but, could it be true sometimes, or for someone? Provided the thought is unusual enough to be put down in the first place, of course. As for other kinds of nonfiction, I try to adhere to the small “t” truth of factual accuracy, insofar as it’s attainable.
3. What is the biggest nemesis to your creative spirit?
The pointless skimming of articles on the web. Imagining that I absolutely must read such and such writer before proceeding with whatever it is I’m doing.
4. What do you hope people take away from your writing?
I especially like it when a book lets you see familiar things in a fresh and strange light, and amuses you while doing so. I’d be glad if people came away feeling like that, but you know, what readers end up reacting to is famously hard to anticipate.
5. What writers have inspired you the most, and why?
There are too many writers that I love. Gogol is probably my favorite, the one whose imagination I find the most appealing and enigmatic. Calvino and Raymond Queneau each did such a rich variety of projects — there’s a lot I find inspiring about them. And increasingly I’m drawn to Robert Louis Stevenson. His essays are so full of this lively critical intelligence, while being very sociable and curious and attentive to the world around him. Plus he just wrote The Wrong Box, one of the funniest novels ever.
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