Talking to Novelist Lynne Tillman: “I Have Less Integrity Than My Writing”

11/12/2012 9:50 AM |


Lynne Tillman is the author of five novels, including, most recently, American Genius, A Comedy. Her fourth short story collection, Someday This Will Be Funny, was released in 2011. She is also a widely published cultural critic and will be appearing at The Franklin Park Reading Series tonight, an event cohosted by Electric Literature.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
People have said that it’s uncompromising and honest. Or, they say the author doesn’t compromise and has integrity. I’d say I have less integrity than my writing.

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
The ballot, if they voted for Obama.

Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
Monica Lewinsky, if she really told all, for example, about why she didn’t have the blue dress dry cleaned.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I have never been even near starving, thankfully. I have lived without much money, slept on floors, stuff like that. But I’m a middle-class person with resources. Starvation robs you of strength, capacity, hope, and the will to do anything except exist. It is no cause of brilliance.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Someone who likes one of my books enough to buy one for a friend, and tell others, “You’ve got to read this!”

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
No, because I believe it was what I was capable of doing then, and, without doing it, I wouldn’t have learned what I needed to write better stories and novels. So, in this way, I believe in progress. In other ways, I don’t.

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