Sorrentino Conversation

This is from a conversation with Gilbert Sorrentino in November 2004 archived as streaming audio at the Lannan Foundation site. It’s worth listening to, he’s an intelligent and funny guy.

In one section that really jumped out to me, Sorrentino expresses something that has always bothered me: the idea that a character, during the writing process, starts doing things on his/her own.

I’ve never been able to understand writers how say: “at a certain point in my story the characters began doing things by themselves.” I’ve never quite understood that. At any moment in your story you can kill your hero. Just kill him in a sentence: “He died.” I mean, you’re the boss. You take charge of everything. In any kind of literature you take charge. The idea that writing is some kind of mysterious process that goes on “by itself” is sort of an insult to the writer, it seems to me. (My transcription)

This attitude is evident in his novels and stories, an sense of controlling his characters because they are words on paper, not real people. The lack of this illusion is probably one thing that would turn people off from his work.