“As you grow older, you become an amalgam of so many separate influences and so many voices that you tried to learn how to copy that you become in effect your own original, rather than a slavish adept.”
Author & MFA teacher Nicholas Delbanco rejoins the show to celebrate Why Writing Matters (Yale University Press). We talk about the notion of literary greatness, the immense craft and revision involved in good writing, the pride of seeing his students achieve lofty heights, and the ways imitation and influence can give way to originality. We also get into how his present work revisits an early, failed novel (as inspired by a chapter in Why Writing Matters), his legacy and mortality and whether It Was Worth It, the literary influences he had to gorge/overdose on, the difficulty for writers to get better as they get older & the difficulty of watching a writer’s diminution (and his presence at Bernard Malamud’s home during the weekend that led Philip Roth to write The Ghost Writer), and how time has shrunk his writing community but also led him to make literary friends in recent years. We also discuss why the locus of the energy of writing no longer resides in novels, poems, or memoirs but in Netflix deals, his daughter‘s screenwriting career and why the collaborative environment isn’t for him, the joy of being a grandfather (& the signs that the grandkids may be going into the family business), and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read Why Writing Matters!
(And go listen to our 2017 conversation!)
“When I signed on for this book, I knew that writing mattered to me, and I was going to try to make it matter to others.”
“Writing is so deeply ingrained in me that I don’t feel as if there was a choice.”
About our Guest
Nicholas Delbanco is the Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. He has published thirty previous books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Count of Concord, Spring and Fall, The Countess of Stanlein Restored, and The Lost Suitcase: Reflections on the Literary Life.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Nicholas’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Nicholas by me. It’s on my instagram.