Philip Roth on Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)

“An early book, driven by high spirits, happiness & the liberating spirit of the times.”

“The man who is the repository of every socially unacceptable thought.

Improvisational chars.

Without quite knowing it, I had stumbled upon my theme – impurity. The impurity of the human compound.

Psychoanalysis provided its vessel for everything. Hatred, pettiness, aggression, nonsense, exaggeration, farce – everything allowed in, except decorum.

Let the repellent in!”

Mark Twain: “The Jews are members of the human race. Worse than that I cannot say about them.”

‘To write a repellent book not so as to shock but so as to represent what is repellent (albeit at the local level.)

The Heshie scene. The crucial scene in the book. Because it reveals the secret which is not masturbation but brutality. The raw brutality of family relations. The raw intensity. The raw emotionality”

“On my rereading “Portnoy’s Complaint” at 80, I am shocked & pleased – shocked that I could have been so reckless, pleased that I should have been reckless.”

Gillian Flynn on Gone Girl (2012)

“With deep, dark regards!”

“My favorite play is, unsurprisingly, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The town in Gone Girl is named Carthage in honor of the play & there are a few other insider nods. I wanted this scene between Nick & Amy to feel reminiscent of George & Martha: not the same, of course, but an echo of their marital gamesmanship. My toxic inspiration!”

Eric Carle on The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)

“The printing could be a lot better.”

James Salter on The Hunters (1957)

“I never liked the title. The title while I was writing the book was A Patron of Tokoshi’s, (being the brothel in Tokyo). That was what I saw as being his trace in the world.” 

Woody Allen on Play It Again, Sam (1982)

“… up with and the only thing I cherish about it is that it led to a life long friendship with Tony Roberts + a life long love of Diane Keaton.”

Alice Walker on The Color Purple (1982)

“I was mistaken.

There is nothing more for me to say about this book!” 

Richard Ford on The Sportswriter (1986)

“Began this book Easter Day, 1982, in Princeton, 4½ months after Mother died; some relentless grief needing ‘channeling’ – hence Ralph B. death & what to say about that. Grief being grief, whatever the source. It said ‘Write a book about somebody in 70s happy.’ Overcoming grief became that: happiness of a kind.”

Toni Morrison on Beloved (1987)

“The last two pages of Beloved could have been the opening since they describe what I was thinking when I began.”

Lydia Davis on Break It Down (1986)

“*This was not one of my own mother’s favorites.”

Don DeLillo on Underworld (1997)

“Novel took 5 years to write – autumn 1991 to autumn 1996. Title applies to a number of events and themes ranging from J Edgar Hoover’s presence in the Prologue to an underground nuclear explosion in the Epilogue, from subway graffiti to a (fictional) movie directed by Sergei Eisenstein (etc).”

Paul Auster on The Red Notebook (2002)

“#when I started writing City of Glass, I had no idea that it would become the first volume of a trilogy. About halfway in, however, I started thinking about a play I had written six or seven years earlier (never performed, –>” 

Patricia Cornwell on Postmortem (1990)

“Things didn’t start well at first…Once upon a time I felt I’d ruined my life. Slammed by Richmond Times Dispatch 12-10-1989. Scarpetta described as “an often annoying man hater” … Banned by prominent Richmond bookstore: “Censorship opponent WON’T SELL Postmortem” 11-11-1989. I was uninvited from several talks scheduled – and I had one booksigning and NO one showed up.”

David Simon on Homicide (1991)

“*I actually thought for a NY minute that I solved this case. I had remembered reading about a homeless man brutally being raped in the same alley by a second homeless man months earlier. The second man had been arrested. Wondered aloud if there was a connection and if the murder victim had been pantsless, resisting a sexual assault. Requer got on the B.C.I. computer intrigued – but no. Suspect still in jail. “Nice try, Simon.”

Peter Carey on True History of the Kelly Gang (2000)

“I first saw Sidney Nolan’s “Kelly Series” in June 1963. I was 20 years old and this was probably the first exhibition I had ever been to. I was with two older men, both writers – Barry Oakley and Morris Lurie. Lurie walked around the show and announced “I’m afraid not, Mr Nolan.” I felt otherwise. Seeing these same paintings in New York (at the Met in 1994) I was impressed all over again. I brought American friends uptown to see the show. Talking with them about the paintings I was reminded of what a wonderful story it was and how – Nolan to one side – how little the Australians had bothered to imagine our great hero. From the start I knew how it should be written, in the sparsely punctuated voice in the Jerilderie letter.”

Neil Gaiman on The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

“I think I am prouder of these few pages than of anything I’ve written.”

Anne Tyler on Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1983)

“Still the book closest to my heart, not counting whatever I’m currently working on.”

Marilynne Robinson on Housekeeping (1980)

“I chose the name Ruth because it means compassion, gentleness. It was a statement to myself about the method of the narrative.”

Jennifer Egan on A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

“The cool thing about using PPT is that is it forces you to identify – and represent – the physical structure of a moment. This was one of my favorite standard PPT templates Over time, though, I was less reliant on templates and more willing to invent my own structures and representations.”

Jay McInerney on Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

“alternate titles I considered: Sunrise at Heartbreak Dancing at Heartbreak Less Than Zero Ultimately went with the title from the great Jimmy Reed song.”