E.L. Doctorow

”I wrote a lot of good books”

Whenever I read anything I seemed to identify as much with the act of composition as with the story. I seemed to have two minds: I would love the story and want to know what happened next, but at the same time I would somehow be aware of what was being done on the page. I identified myself as a kind of younger brother of the writer. I was on hand to help him figure things out. So you see I didn’t actually have to write a thing because the act of reading was my writing. I thought of myself as a writer for years before I got around to writing anything. It’s not a bad way to begin. It’s to blur that distinction between reader and writer. If you think about it, any book that you pick up as a reader, if it’s good, is a printed circuit for your own life to flow through—so when you read a book you are engaged in the events of the mind of the writer. You are bringing your creative faculties into sync. You’re imagining the words, the sounds of the words, and you’re thinking of the various characters in terms of people you’ve known—not in terms of the writer’s experience but your own. So it’s very hard to make any distinction between reader and writer at this ontological level. As a child I somehow drifted into this region where you are both reader and writer: I declared to myself that I was the writer. I wrote a lot of good books. I wrote Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. That was one of my better efforts.

E.L. Doctorow, The Paris Review: The Art of Fiction No.94

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