James Alan McPherson was born 16 September 1943 and died 27 July 2016
- I believe that if one can experience diversity, touch a variety of its people, laugh at its craziness, distil wisdom from its tragedies, and attempt to synthesise all this inside oneself without going crazy, one will have earned the right to call oneself ‘citizen of the United States’.
- I think that it takes a disengagement of the imagination from this world to write fiction. And I think my imagination has been engaged in this world for so many years.
- I think that love must be the ability to suspend one’s intelligence for the sake of something. At the basis of love therefore must live imagination.
On what makes for a compelling history volume?
- First and foremost, it has to be readable. If the writing is awkward, jargon ridden, narrow, if the prose is dull or dead, then people aren’t going to read it.
- Second, it has to be accurate. It has to be based on thorough research and on an honest effort to present the story as objectively as possible. Nobody can be 100 percent objective, but it has to be fair-minded.
- Third, I think it does have to be a story. It has to have dramatic tension. It can’t merely be about large economic or social or cultural forces without real people in there with whom the reader can identify. These are some of the important things that will engage the reader and keep him from saying, ‘This is dull, this is uninteresting. I’m not going to waste my time on this book.’
James Alan McPherson is an American short story writer and essayist. In 1978, he became the first African-American writer to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Elbow Room. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.
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