Robert Goolrick – Interview


So let me call you Robert, if that’s OK with you. Not that I want to show off with my pals, but we kinda know each other a bit through what you gave me to read… Those questions are the one I would have liked to ask Bukowski after he wrote “On Writing”. The last one is the one he might have wanted to ask you.
1 – When you write only to get famous you shit it away. I don’t want to make rules but if there is one it is : the only writers who write well are those who must write in order not to go mad.
Does that speak to you?

Do you ever feel to be on the verge of madness ? What I feel is a deep deep obsession. It takes an enormous amount of concentration to write a book. Nothing else exists. I have one rule : stop for the day before I’ve said all I have to say. That way, in the morning, I wake up with at least a fragment of a sentence in my mind. So I guess it is a kind of madness.

2 – I’ve been tired of poetry for years, for centuries but I kept writing it because the others were doing it so badly.
What about you ? Do you ever write or read poetry ?

I read poetry, but do not write it. For instance, I cannot read fiction while writing fiction. While writing « Une femme simple et honnête », I read all of Whitman, and I can recognize the influence in the writing. For « La chute des princes », I read Blake’s Songs on « Innocence and Experience ».

3 – I don’t know where you got your talent from but the gods undoubtedly endowed you well with it. ” (To John Fante)
You believe in that ? In fairies tilted on your cradle when you were a baby ? Or it is just a lot of work?

It is an unknowable gift from God. God gives it, and the eternal fear is this : God can take it away.

4 – There isn’t any excuse fort a creation crippled by directives of school and fashion, or the valetudinarian prayer book that says : form, form, form !! Put it in the cage ! Let’s allow ourselves space and error, hysteria and grief.

What do you think about schools of writing ? About writers who end up writing the same book all over again ? About words put in the cage ?

I am very much against creative writing schools. I believe you are given a talent, and it is up to you to develop it by working very, very hard. Writing school writers write the same book over and over again, and they all sound alike, dead, without life. They write only to publish, not to illuminate. I don’t care if every book of mine is different, in a different style. It shows growth.

5 – I do not believe in technique or school or sissies… I believe in grasping at the curtains like a drunken monk… and tear them down, down, down…

Do you also grasp at the curtains ? Tear them down ? Does it happen to you to work so hard on a text that you end up throwing it away ?

I’ve thrown away more texts than I have published, or I have held them back until the day comes back when they finally speak to me and i understand them, like discovering a whole new continent that was never there before.


6 – It is the unread and the unprepared, those so hasty to splash into print that they have not reached into the ages for a sound and basic springboard, that I take task with.

Is your springboard sound ? Do you believe in these trendy “creative writing” courses ? Places where people are taught to write books ?

I think I have answered this. I do not believe in schools that teach writing. They teach only how to publish, not to bring light into a dark world. They teach a language that is like a prsion, the students like prisoners, their voices the voices of the incarcerated. They will never make anything wholly new.


7 – My question is this : does a writer become public property to be ransacked without notice upon publication or does he still retain the rights of privacy as a tax-paying citizen ? Would it be gross to say that the only eucharist of many an artist is (still) isolation from an only-too-fast closing society, or is this simply a desuetude ?

What’s your take on that one ?

A famous writer said to me that the greatest thing a work of art can do is inspire another work of art, so, in that way, we write only to open ourselves to the piracy of our admirers. The important thing is for a writer to protect his private life. Without his privacy, his anonymity, however well-known, he is lost. We are not recluses. We are simply private, and we cling to that privacy fiercely, because in that privacy lives the story we are trying to tell.