Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Art Of Listening : The Paris Review Interviews

"I have known many poets here who have written well - very fine stuff - with delicate moods and so on - but if you talk with them, the only thing they tell you is smutty stories or they speak of politics in a way that everybody does, so that really their writing turns out to be a kind of sideshow. They had learned writing in the way that a man might learn to play chess or to play bridge. They were really not poets or writers at all. It was a trick they had learned, and they had learned it thoroughly. They had the whole thing at their finger ends. But most of them - except four or five, I should say - seemed to think of life as having nothing poetic or mysterious about it. They take things for granted.."
~ Jorge Luis Borges
in his interview to Ronald Christ in 1967 (from 'The Paris Review Interviews' Volume I, 2006, Picador, New York)
It is very difficult to take an Interview of anyone. More so if the other person is a writer, an artist, a singer or a dancer. It requires tremendous intelligence and a lot of hard work to study the body of work of the person being interviewed. And above all, one must cultivate the art of listening.
The art of listening has become a rare feat these days, that one is really scared whether the human ear is very soon going to become a completely vestigial organ of the body. May be as a sign of this degenerative evolution, the pinna has already become static. Just imagine, how cute it will be to look at, if the pinna of the human ear starts moving everytime we listen keenly to the other person!
All animals must be keen to listen to each other. Have you observed how the ears of a dog will swirl, even if they are sleeping, the moment they hear a hiss? They will never open their eyes first. It is the folly of the human mind to think that the most beautiful creature of this Universe - the Elephant - keeps on moving its ears to avoid ants from entering into them. How reductive. The Elephant actually wants to listen to everything every organism in this world thinks and feels. And bless them. Just b'coz we are deaf to this, there is so much sadness in the eyes of all the tamed elephants. It makes me cry.
'The Paris Review Interviews' are a rare collection of interviews which were published in the world's most respected literary magazine The Paris Review. The Paris Review is being published quarterly from New York (not Paris!) since 1953. They have so far brought out 4 volumes of 16 interviews each. Each interview is elaborate and detailed that one gets a comprehensive slice of the persona of our cherised literary masters.
I've bought only the first three Volumes @ Landmark, my favourite place to hang-out in Infiniti Mall, Andheri West, Mumbai and have placed the order for the fourth one which is yet to be delivered.
Some of the most lovely interviews which i relished are that of T.S.Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Graham Greene, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez from the first two volumes. There are many names in the first two volumes about whom i have not even heard of. Am yet to read the third volume which has the interviews of William Carlos Williams, Harold Pinter, Raymond Carver, Chinua Achebe, Ted Hughes, Salman Rushdie and Norman Mailer to name a few. And am yet to know about the fourth volume.
They are not only the ideal models of how an interview must be taken and given. But they also throw light into the innumerable possibilities that can emerge out of a beautiful human conversation.
If only we are bestowed with those listening ears..

1 comment:

  1. Your collections about "Paris Review Interviews" was very nice and interesting.. It shows your intense about everything. It also made me too observe something.. I keenly read your musing about the "Art of listening". From
    your musing i came to know how that pinna of human ear will work and also how the ear will work for animals. I was so intent when i read that..

    Jorge Luis Borges interview was very nice.. from that i came to know how the poets will think, write and speak. It also tells that how the interview will be taken.. It was very interesting. Really i had a pleasant time..