Famous Authors: They’re Just Like Us!


For T Magazine, seven authors reflect on the experience of revisiting and annotating their early works for an upcoming PEN American Center fundraiser. George Saunders thinks his style in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline was “manic and abrupt.” Jennifer Egan still regrets that she failed to include an Epic poetry chapter in A Visit From the Goon Squad. Junot Diaz thought The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was a “colossal failure” when he finished it, and Philip Roth damns Portnoy’s Complaint as “as dated as ‘The Scarlet Letter.’” In addition to revealing that famous authors are just as self-depreciating as the rest of us, the responses lend an interesting perspective on how a work changes over time. Perhaps Saunders puts it best:

Though we think we are making permanent monuments against which our egos can rest, we’re actually making something more akin to a fog cloud. We come back to what we’ve made and find out it’s been changing all along. We’ve changed, the artistic context around the story has changed, the world has changed.

Claire Burgess’s short fiction has appeared in Third Coast, Hunger Mountain, and PANK online, among others. Her stories have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prize and Best American anthologies, but haven’t actually made it into one yet. She’s a graduate of the Vanderbilt University MFA program, where she co-founded Nashville Review. She lives in Pittsburgh by way of the deep South and says things on Twitter @Clairabou_. More from this author →