For the past few weeks the Kelly Writers House, a writers’ center at the University of Pennsylvania, has been uploading a host of videos featuring visiting authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Coover, Mary Gordon, Tad Friend, and more. It’s worth skipping around a bit, but I particularly liked a brief video from 2006 of Richard Ford talking about how fussy he is over words:
After arguing that the novel is an antidote to “a mindless, feckless, irresponsible use of language,” he adds: “A careful novel will try to say, ‘Oh, you think you know what this word means? Well, let me tell you what the consequences of this word is.’ Like ‘independence,’ for instance. You think you know what ‘independence’ means. But I’m going to write 478 pages to show you that something else is meant by ‘independence.'” The whole video is worth watching to hear him talk about how fixated he can be on finding exactly the right word.