An Interview with Peter Hessler – Andrew Field

Andrew Field has posted an interview with on his blog, Shanghai Journal. In the interview Hessler, author of River Town and Oracle Bones, talks mostly about the craft of writing. Some of his recent writing can be found in National Geographic and in the current New Yorker, where he writes about Great Wall researcher David Spindler (abstract available only). From the interview:

Ideally, I’d like to appeal to a number of different audiences. I think it’s important for books to serve as an introduction to China, for readers who haven’t been there or don’t know much about the country; but I’d also like my writing to appeal to people who are familiar with China. And finally I’d like to be read by people who simply want to read good writing. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to prioritize and balance these goals; in the end I guess my main priority is to try to produce good writing. There’s a strong tradition of literary nonfiction in the US, but such writers generally haven’t focused on overseas subjects. It’s a lot to juggle – learning a foreign language and culture takes a lot of attention, and writing well requires a different sort of attention. In my own experience, I feel like each suffers – my Chinese knowledge would be better if I didn’t spent so much time on writing, and my writing would be better if I hadn’t had to focus on a foreign language and a foreign culture. But it’s a unique challenge and I’ve found it rewarding thus far. [Full text]

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