Literary Birthday – 14 June – John Edgar Wideman


Happy Birthday, John Edgar Wideman, born 14 June 1941

Nine Quotes

  1. Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.
  2. A great artist transforms our world, removes scales from our eyes, plugs from our ears, gloves from our fingertips and teaches us to perceive reality differently.
  3. I don’t tell everything. I want the reader to have the feeling that maybe they know the whole truth, but they don’t.
  4. I don’t write books because I have answers. I write books because I have questions. What we are is the questions that we ask, not the answers that we provide. It’s all about the process of self-examination. I think that’s what the best writing always contains.
  5. As a writer, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You’re just doing it. You hope it works out well.
  6. Remember that a book is many drafts – mine certainly are. It’s improvisation. It’s as much jazz and the way we talk and the way I heard people preach coming up as it is writing.
  7. I really dislike it when people talk about “experimental”, because any good writer is experimental.
  8. Books are an attempt to control something that’s uncontrollable.
  9. Our thoughts, our language, are always at a distance from whatever they’re trying to describe. We have other kinds of languages, like mathematics, like music, like art, but there’s always that gap.

John Edgar Wideman is an American writer and professor emeritus at Brown University. The winner of many literary awards, Wideman is the first writer to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: for Sent for You Yesterday in 1984 and for Philadelphia Fire in 1990.  He sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions.

Source for quotes and image

by Amanda Patterson