2B j CHRONICLESnhierarchical club like the Iowa or Breadloaf circuit, and evennif you are not one of their stars, if you stay patiently and donwhat we used to call “pull wool” down South sufficiently,nyour time will come. They can’t leave you unrewardednforever. Queen Elizabeth could, but the Iowa Writers’nWorkshop can’t.nBell: You’ve taught at a lot of different schools, and therenmust be hundreds of publishing writers who’ve had you as anteacher at one time or another. Do you think writing can bentaught?nGarrett: Well, you can’t teach anybody to be a writer. Innever had somebody saying, “Make me a writer.” I havenhad close to it, one guy who said, “I will do anything to benone.” All you had to do was tell him to do something oncenand he would do it, and this was a horrendous responsibility,nbecause he didn’t resist. Other than that I have mostly hadnpeople who needed response, needed direction or somethingnto come up against, but who were not to be made intonwriters. You can teach certain kinds of techniques, the waynthat people teach the violin and the cello.nMy approach to this is rather like that of my late unclenJack, the golf pro, who was supposed to be one of the greatngolf teachers. He was one of the first guys in the history ofngolf to get holistic about it. He didn’t know the word, but hensuddenly realized that all this discussion — “this is the grip,nand this is the stance” — was working against the experiencenof hitting the golf ball. So instead he took people out withnbuckets and buckets of balls and just had them start hittingnthat ball. He wouldn’t give them much advice at all becausenwhat he was trying to find out was what their natural bodyninclinations were. Basically, all you are then is a critic, younare not imposing a system.nI picked up a class right after a very arbitrary, directionalnteacher had left, who had told them, “The following thingsnare in a short story and should be in your short story. And Inwill not read stories on the following subjects. …” Wenworked as kind of a nice one-two team: when I came in Insaid, “Anything is a short story, let’s see what you got.” Andnthen worked in terms of what they did. And that is my wholenmethod, such as it is. So you don’t end up saying that yountaught anybody. You responded to somebody — they taughtnthemselves. And for writers, maybe that’s the best way.nBell: What are you up to now, or will you discuss it?nGarrett: Not too much. One more historical book whichnis a short (I hope), spare book concerning the murder ofnChristopher Marlowe.nBell: The Succession was supposed to be short too, right?nGarrett: Right. There’s no way I can do something likenthat again—I’d be dead. So this one has to be short. We’renbeginning to think trilogy now, right? This one is going tonbe different, to the extent that I’m going to be without myngreatest prop. It’s so spare in planning that there’s going tonbe minimal detail about the texture of Elizabethan life.nAlmost just the people and just the action. So it has to sortnof exist in the context of the other two books. It’s kind of thenunderside, which we dipped into a little bit in The Succession,nbut it gets farther down into it. There aren’t any greatnfolks, except in distance, hated by these minor malcontentsnand murderous bastards. It’s the only time we’re really doingnthe underside without the immediate contrast of the rulersnand managers of the nation. My original supposition was.nnn”What if Raymond Chandler wrote about the murder ofnChristopher Marlowe?” Well, it isn’t going to be quite likenthat.nBell: Looking over the record, your career has seemed tonrun in cycles of publication and recognition. Several books anyear at the beginning, and you won the Prix de Rome.nThen neariy a decade without much happening. ThennDeath of the Fox makes the best-seller list. Another decadenof virtual silence, and now you’ve got four or five new booksnout, with The Succession, maybe, in the lead. The wheel ofnfortune has made a couple of complete revolutions in yourncase, it would seem. What do you think of the literary life?nGarrett: It’s a mug’s game, as Eliot called it. That part,nthat’s not very satisfactory. Why I thought it would benimmune from the general scriptural description of life onnthis earth I don’t know. I imagined that by writing I wouldnsomehow be immune from the normal code of things,nwhich leads inevitably to a contempt for the mundane. Sonthe literary life is, of course, rich with disappointments. It’sndisappointing that I allow myself to be disappointed.nIt’s taken me a long time to figure this out, and othernpeople have known it all along in a slightly different way, butnit’s what my wife, Susan, says: Public life does not exist.nOnly private life is real. Public life of any kind is an illusion.nI’m not sure that’s true. . . .nBell: Ralegh might not have agreed with that.nGarrett: No, I think not either. Except, when he camenout of the courtroom the day before he died, having beennsentenced to death again in Westminster, a cousin of his sawnthat he was being very witty with a lot of the people, withnjokes and bursts of laughter. The cousin said it was verynunseemly for a guy just condemned to death to be crackingnjokes, and Ralegh, punning at the time, said, “Indulge me anlittle, I shall be grave enough at the sad parting.”nLack of recognition does affect what you do. And younfind yourself desiring trashy things. The hideous irony isnthat you box yourself in a position where if you get whatnyou’ve been waiting for, it turns out to be a nice platter ofntrash.nFaulkner has been a great inspiration to me, an influencenin the sense that he managed to succeed in doing his worknwhile being bitterly unhappy, and it’s quite clear that henwas, over not getting any kind of recognition. My favoritenexample is from the unpublished introduction to The Soundnand the Fury. He had enormous difficulty with his thirdnnovel, that was ultimately published as Sartoris, getting itnpublished anywhere. So he had this tremendous disappointment,nbecause things had been real easy up to that point.nAnd he says he was liberated to write The Sound and thenFury by having this thing happen to him. He said, “One daynI seemed to close a door on all agents, publishers, book lists,nand everything else, and said to myself—now I can write.”nIt’s the reverse of doors being closed in your face. You closenthe door.nBell: Did you ever wish you had not done this, andninstead had made your career as a Marine fighter pilot ornsomething of the sort?nGarrett: I really liked certain aspects of the army life, andnI thought for a while that I might just do that. I was a masternsergeant at the end of it. I looked around, and there werensome master sergeants that had a pleasant life. But I’dn