The Writer: Enabling Extraordinary Consciousness

TG: You know, the characters you write about are really not extraordinary people, right? ... They're interesting, ordinary people. But, and I'm not saying this just to flatter you, I think you're an extraordinary writer, and therefore when you're writing about these kind of interesting, ordinary people, they are somehow able to think in extraordinary ways. Do you know what I mean? I think your characters are able to think more clearly and eloquently than their real-life counterparts could, because you're putting the words in their mouths.

MG: Well, I think that’s the difference between thinking eloquently and speaking eloquently, and that’s what a writer does. That is the gift that we have. I’m not convinced that many people aren't thinking extraordinary thoughts; they simply don’t have the facility to write them or even speak them. It’s something that growing up working-class as I did …. you really understand that occasionally people who were enormously inarticulate and spoke seventy years of cliches will say a few extraordinary sentences, and you realise that in that inner life there might have been a lot of quite remarkable things that were never able to be said. Everybody dreams, for example; nobody has boring dreams. If anybody told you their dreams, they’re full of details which are highly imaginative.

TG: So you kind of feel that what you could do is translate those thoughts into words.

MG: Yeah, I think that’s the great lesson of Joyce’s Ulysses. I mean, you know, Leopold Bloom was an ordinary schmuck in Dublin; he wasn’t doing very well. And the entire riches of English literature and English language are put at his disposal through Joyce, and you get this extraordinary consciousness. And I think that is the task of a writer, to give articulation to what is buried and yet quite rich in, I believe, most people.

- from an interview with Mary Gordon by Terry Gross, Fresh Air