What do Graham Greene, James Thurber, William Faulkner, Robert Lowell, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eudora Welty, John Gardner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Larkin, James Baldwin, William Gaddis, Harold Bloom, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Peter Carey and Stephen King all have in common?
They all sat for Paris Review Interviews. We called the first volume of this series "the gold standard of crack," and they haven't given up an inch of ground with the release of the second volume, which is as compulsively readable as the first. Herewith an excerpt from the Baldwin interview:
PR: When did you first conceive of leaving black characters out of Giovanni's Room?
JB: I suppose the only honest answer is that Giovanni's Room came out of something I had to face. I don't quite know when it came, though it broke off from what later turned into Another Country. Giovanni was at a party and on his way to the guillotine. He took all the light in the book, and then the book stopped and nobody in the book would speak to me. I thought I would seal Giovanni off into a short story, but it turned into Giovanni's Room. I certainly could not possibly have - not at that point in my life - handled the other great weight, the "Negro problem." The sexual-moral light was a hard thing to deal with. I could not handle both propositions in the same book. There was no room for it. I might do it differently today, but then, to have a black presence in the book at that moment, and in Paris, would have been quite beyond my powers.