The University Press of Mississippi has been quietly putting out an amazing catalog of books for years now. One such set is their Literary Conversations Series (edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw) that consists of interviews and essays with modern literature’s most fascinating authors. I got Don DeLillo, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Jack Kerouac, but the series also includes Tom Wolfe, August Wilson, Robert Penn Warren, Gore Vidal, Ray Bradbury, Gloria Naylor, R. Crumb, Audre Lorde, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among many others.
They also put out a similar set called the Conversations with Filmmakers Series (edited by Peter Brunette). These include Ridley Scott, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Jean Renoir, Tim Burton, Charlie Chaplin, Francis Ford Coppola, Terry Gilliam, and many more. Since each of these books focuses on a specific person, but spans the length of his or her career, one really gets a sense of their attitudes, ambitions, processes, career development, career pitfalls, and, of course, personal tribulations. If you’re interested in any of these creators’ work, then the appropriate book here is indispensable. Hell, even if you’re not necessarily interested in the subject, they’re good. I mean, have you ever seen a bad episode of Behind the Music?
Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Roman Polanski from 1984:
Franz-Olivier Giesbert: After all that you have gone through, you still look only thirty years old. What’s your secret?
Roman Polanski: My curiosity, without doubt. I’m always trying to learn something new. A language or a musical instrument. Old age is an illness that sets in when you don’t want to learn anything new.
So keep an eye out for these volumes. They’re all certainly worth checking out.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.