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Joseph McElroy, Writing at His Own Pace

Author Joseph McElroy
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Author Joseph McElroy
'Actress In The House'
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'Actress In The House'

In a world of short attention spans, where does the complex prose of Joseph McElroy fit in? That's a question posed by NPR's Steve Inskeep in a wide-ranging interview with McElroy, who has a new novel out: Actress in the House. It's his first book in 14 years.

"I'm writing for any reader," McElroy says. "But I think a book is not only something to be raced through... but something to be dwelled in. To be lived in..."

"There's no racing through this book," Inskeep suggests, and McElroy agrees.

"Like Proust and James and Faulkner and Beckett... and many other writers who I feel are kindred spirits in some way... I feel that the movement of the book can be as slow as the problems of experience sometimes make life for us," he says.

"I don't mean that a book should be difficult because life is difficult. I happen to think that art has to be in some way more accessible and simpler than life itself," he adds. "But the distillation can be transparent, like the prose of Tolstoy or Hemingway, or it can perhaps in its density come closer to representing the movement of some experience... so I think that may account for a certain pace that is required of the reader."

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.