I read the best American novel of this century earlier this year: Europe Central by William T. Vollmann. It’s a tour-de-force that’s admittedly flawed and spackled, pitted and teetering page by page, as the author confides in the notes.

However, the interview (in Germany, no less!) brings one of the more interesting philosophical aspects of writing to the fore: that fiction is powered by ignorance and wonder. Even if you do as much research as Vollmann did to tie together some fifteen or so stories to depict the death dance between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia, it still needs to be solidified with the Gorilla glue of imagination. Otherwise, it would just be journalism – where one needs to be certain of everything, and completely source every word, every syllable. Unless of course you’re Truman Capote or Norman Mailer.

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