The current issue of The Paris Review has an Art of Fiction interview with Jonathan Franzen. Highlights:
When I was younger, the main struggle was to be a “good writer.” Now I more or less take my writing abilities for granted, although this doesn’t mean I always write well. And, by a wide margin, I’ve never felt less self- consciously preoccupied with language than I did when I was writing Freedom. Over and over again, as I was producing chapters, I said to myself, “This feels nothing like the writing I did for twenty years—this just feels transparent.” … I was admittedly somewhat conscious that this was a good sign—that it might mean that I was doing something different, pressing language more completely into the service of providing transparent access to the stories I was telling and to the characters in those stories. But it still felt like a leap into the void.
On authorial masks:
Again, after much trying and failing, I’d seen that there was no way I could write directly about certain central parts of my own experience, my experience with my mom and my experience in my marriage. What made direct revelation impossible was partly my sense of shame and partly a wish to protect third parties, but it was mostly because the material was so hot that it deformed the writing whenever I came at it directly. And so, layer by layer, I built up the masks. Like with papier-mâché, strip after strip, molding ever more lifelike features, in order to perform the otherwise unperformable personal drama.
On The Corrections:
The fear out of which that book was written was that new materialism of the brain, which has given us drugs to change our personalities, and the materialism of consumer culture, which provides endless distractions and encourages the endless pursuit of more goods, were both antithetical to the project of literature, which is to connect with that which is unchanging and unchangeable, the tragic dimension of life.