Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews” as Want to Read:
The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews

(The Paris Review Interviews)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  977 ratings  ·  122 reviews
How do great writers do it? From James M. Cain's hard-nosed observation that "writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It's not all inspirational," to Joan Didion's account of how she composes a book--"I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm"--The ...more
Paperback, 510 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Picador USA
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Paris Review Interviews, I, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Paris Review Interviews, I

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  977 ratings  ·  122 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pub-2006
What are writers like? What makes them different? On goodreads, for example, they will be the people that write their 'about me' sections in the third person. However, I had a feeling there must be more to that.

When I was younger I thought writers were an entirely different caste of people. You can't become a writer, you have to be born one. There are no creative writing courses in Poland, because writing is not something you can teach. It comes from divine inspiration and not from knowing your
Read up until the Vonnegut interview (which was great). The rest of these interviews seem less urgent to me, so I'm putting this back on the occasionally-reading shelf.

My impressions of the interviews, below:

1st Interview: Dorothy Parker

I thought that dear Dorothy certainly had a pose that she was anxious to keep. There were definitely some airs and "well, dahhhhhling," sort of moments. However, I appreciated her good taste. Her favorite contemporary writer was EM Forster (with a wonderful littl
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays-shorts
The first of four volumes, this collection presents the most noted conversations published by the esteemed literary periodical, The Paris Review. Known for its access to top-tier contemporary writers and its intimate approach to the craft, the magazine's interview has long been considered one of the key sources of insight into the working life of the artist - be it novelist, poet, screenwriter, historian, or cultural commentator. (Editors also occasionally appear: Robert Gottlieb made the cut he ...more
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever tried to write or even wondered about the creative writing
process these interviews will have you riveted. I expected some ego and
posturing and there is a bit but most of the authors are amazingly honest....even
Hemingway as he picks and chooses what he wants to discuss. Most delicious is
when these writers give their take on fellow writers. Here's an example from
Joan Didion, "There's a passage by Christopher Isherwood in a book of his called
`The Condor and the Crows', in which
James Murphy
Nov 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is darned interesting. As readers we're fascinated by what writers have to say about their work. These interviews provide glimpses of how they think as well as their individual works and what elements shaped them. Every one of the interviews is absorbing, even the one I cared for the least. That was Saul Bellow's. I was disappointed that, as was explained in the introductory remarks to his interview, he felt the need to heavily edit it. That process apparently involved several drafts a ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As this is not a novel it is perhaps not necessary to start at the beginning and read through to the end, but I did so nevertheless, utterly enthralled by the intimate view of the writing process. What most writers have in common: they are usually readers too, they seem often to know the beginning of a story and the end, and have to wrestle with the middle, and most of them seem to need a routine, structure and discipline.
However what is remarkable is the individuality of the process and attitud
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once I realised that many of the famous writers' quotes came from their Paris Review interviews, I went straight to the source. And what a source! I hadn't ever tried reading a book consisting purely of interviews, but so long as I read the interviews with a bit of a gap, I found the format appealing. The theme, if you care about it, is riveting: this is written work about (mostly) writers who talk about (mostly) writing.

If I don't write, I feel, well, a kind of remorse, no?
—Jorge Luis Borges

Lee Kofman
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was an elevating experience, an oasis amidst the daily banalities. So many great minds speaking up their minds (forgive me the pun...) at once. Some interviews were more literary/intellectual, others were more chatty, and although I favored the former for obvious reasons (self-help, of course!), I also didn't mind the latter because the chatter was always elevated too, no small talk here whatever the topic was, and plenty of healthy irony. And some interviewees, like Hemingway, ...more
Leah W
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like authors
Loved this book. Part of it is the novelty of insightful interviews with T.S. Eliot, Truman Capote, and Earnest Hemingway. But even the interviews with writers I don't know well (Robert Stone, Jack Gilbert) were really interesting.

Moving on to the second volume soon..

A running list of terrific quotes from this book:

"I hate almost all rich people, but I think I'd be darling at it." -Dorothy Parker

"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the wr
Jul 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
BEST. BOOK. EVER. This book is a required reading for anyone that enjoys literature, authors, or a fascinating glimpse into the artistic process. The remarkable George Plimpston and friends interview everyone from T.S. Eliot to Dorothy Parker to Earnest Hemingway and back again. The interview with Kurt Vonnegut, dealing in part with writing about his experience in Dresden, will blow your mind.
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Essential for aspiring writers, near-essential for anyone else interested in a look behind the curtain. Candid, thoughtful back-and-forths with some of the greats of the last century. Watching Plimpton spar with Hemingway over the latter's reluctance to give too much away is worth the price of admission alone.
John Hood
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing

Bound - Miami SunPost

Nov. 20, 2008

A Gentleman Among Men

George Plimpton Was All That and Then Some

By John Hood

George Plimpton and I first met at his Manhattan home back in ’90 or ’91 when he hosted a wedding reception for then Paris Review Senior Editor Fayette Hickox. I was just coming into my ego then and still a bit reticent around celebrity, but Plimpton made me feel immediately welcome into his world. That his world consisted of every 20th century wri
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
You guys, I am such a dork that for years I coveted the four book collection set of these Paris Review interviews. (As in, they've sat in my Amazon wish list since like, 2009.) But they're stupidly expensive (like, $150 for the set) so yeah, wishful thinking is right.

Imagine my surprise to discover our local library has them! Recently I dived into this one and then was glad I DIDN'T purchase them b/c in the time I had this checked out, I found myself devouring a few, skimming others, and straigh
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
What better way to begin this series of interviews than with the delightfully erudite Dorothy Parker followed by the charming, eccentric Truman Capote. You could stop right there and be satiated. But why would you when further on there is an interview with Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, Borges, Vonnegut, James M. Cain, Elizabeth Bishop and last but never least, Joan Didion who hasn’t ever used a wrong word.
Thanks to artful, skilled interlocutors like George Plimpton, you learn about the per
Kateri Ewing
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
This is the first of four volumes of writer interviews, first published in The Paris Review over the past fifty or so years. I jumped around and saved Kurt Vonnegut (1977) for last, and it was my favourite. I love to read quality interviews, even more than biography, or memoir, because when the chemistry is right between the two participants, thoughts and ideas get pulled forth that might not otherwise surface. The highlights of this volume for me were Hemingway (1958), Dorothy Parker (1956) and ...more
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The friend who pressed this volume in my hands was correct -- it is every bit as intelligent, engaging, and exciting to read as he insisted. Vonnegut is funny, Borges sublime, Didion contemplative--- exactly as you would want them to be. (I always hesitate to read interviews, for fear that the interviewee will disappoint by failing to meet some ridiculously high level of sophistication and insight that I've dreamed up.) The real surprise in this volume was Hemingway, who was smart, acerbic, and ...more
John Hovey
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The liner notes from this book promise a walk through the minds of literature's greatest, a tour so astounding that it is essentially all you could hope for from an MFA in creative writing. I have never been on a tour through a mind nor earned an MFA, so it's hard to verify these claims. Still, the book is a fine collection of interviews, especially Capote and Hemingway, and it is so so so refreshing to read an interview not constructed to discredit the interviewed or create needless sensational ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Interviewer (Plimpton): What would you consider the best intellectual training for the would-be writer?

Hemmingway: Let's say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.

Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read, and really illuminating into writers' processes (all different, unsurprisingly), and also their intentions for specific works. Also, very easily digestible, reading an interview here and an interview there. Really recommended for aspiring writers especially, but I imagine it would be great for anyone interested in literature more generally. I will be starting the next volume in the series soon.
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't know when I've been so moved by a book. This book of interviews is so rich and I learned so much about my own texture and the texture of those in my life, and of course the creative process. I was amazed as I closed the cover to have the same kind of feeling I have had after reading an exceptionally moving novel or watching a mind-blowing film. It's like every page in this book is golden. It's really a beautiful book.

Oct 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is my go-to book whenever I get stuck with writing or reading a story. I bought it for the Dorothy Parker interview (which doesn't disappoint - man, was that woman quick), but the rest of the interviews are just as good. Each writer manages to bring his or her own unique writing view to the interview while managing to discuss the universal themes of hard work and innate talent. It's amazint to read Vonnegut and Hemmingway and see the two men agree on a point.
Kate Buford
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, readers who are interested in the process of writing
I am reading this chapter by chapter, little at a time, like eating a box of really good, very expensive chocolates. The Hemingway interview is worth the price of the book.

Nov. 2009: Now I've read GEORGE BEING GEORGE, the equally delicious book about George Plimpton,, which must be read side-by-side with the PARIS REVIEW interviews. Could not put it down.
Grace Bowman
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing

from things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. I read parts of this book atleast once a month. Vonnegut has an interesting interview in it, for all you Vonnegut fans. My favorite interviews are probably the Capote and Lessing interviews.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent collection of interviews. James M. Cain, Dorothy Parker, Saul Bellow and Kurt Vonnegut being some fo my favorites but every one is interesting, even the writers I don't really know about. A great book you can come back to again and again.
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This collection is super cool. Interviews with the contemporary authors that take place over the course of the last fifty years and were originally published in the Paris Review. Borges, Hemingway, Vonnegut alone make this collection worthwhile. Poets and screenwriters also included.
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book to have around. You've read books by these people, but after reading these interviews you'll want to read 'em all again.
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially writers
Great for writers. Learn the ins and outs of what people like Hemingway and Capote think of the writing process.
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I have been reading this on and off for about a year. The interviews are the best I've ever read, and are incredibly inspiring. Particular fondness for Didion.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Totally the best collection of interviews out there. For anyone interested in writing or the lives of various writers.
The Borges interview may be the best.
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • King John
  • Death in Venice and Other Tales
  • Story of My Life
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  • Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice
  • What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
  • Anne Conway: The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy
  • The Great Fires
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
  • Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
  • Gust: Poems
  • Queer: A Graphic History
  • Discourse on Metaphysics and Other Essays
  • Always Happy Hour: Stories
  • The King Must Die (Theseus, #1)
  • Orientalism
  • Crito
  • When the King Took Flight
See similar books…
Founded in Paris by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton in 1953, The Paris Review began with a simple editorial mission: “Dear reader,” William Styron wrote in a letter in the inaugural issue, “The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work—fiction and poetry—not to the exclusion of criticism, but with the aim in mind of merely removing criticism from the dominating place it ...more

Other books in the series

The Paris Review Interviews (4 books)
  • The Paris Review Interviews, II: Wisdom from the World's Literary Masters
  • The Paris Review Interviews, III
  • The Paris Review Interviews, IV

Related Articles

Emma Straub was all set to spend May on tour promoting her new novel, All Adults Here. Instead, due to the global pandemic, the Brooklyn-based auth...
14 likes · 4 comments