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making up stories

We love a good interview, and this one is wonderful. John Gardner was a novelist and critic, but he was also a teacher and a human, in the very best way. His writing about writing is generous, practical and principled. The Paris Review compiled the interview from four separate interviews conducted by Paul F. Ferguson, John R. Maier, Sara Matthiessen and Frank McConnell.

I read a man like Collingwood, or even Brand Blanchard or C. D. Broad, and I get excited—even anxious—filled with suspense. I read a man like Swinburn on time and space and it becomes a matter of deep concern to me whether the structure of space changes near large masses. It’s as if I actually think philosophy will solve life’s great questions—which sometimes, come to think of it, it does, at least for me. Probably not often, but I like the illusion. Blanchard’s attempt at a logical demonstration that there really is a universal human morality, or the recent flurry of theories by various majestical cranks that the universe is stabilizing itself instead of flying apart—those are lovely things to run into. Interesting and arresting, I mean, like talking frogs. I get a good deal more out of the philosophy section of a college bookstore than out of the fiction section, and I more often read philosophical books than I read novels. So sure, I’m “philosophical,” though what I write is by no means straight philosophy. I make up stories.