The Best American Edited-Out Writing 2002

This is the week of the Very Special Birthday, and we're up to our ears in boughs. Frankly, we're phoning this one in. The wise men suckered the baby with incense, wisdom, and a bunch of gaudy bullshit, but our offering on this week is simple: all the quotes from visiting authors that were cut from our column this year. Enjoy.

"If I could do [A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius] over again, I probably wouldn't. Memoirs are self-conscious, convoluted, and tortured. Don't do it. Fiction, fiction, fiction. You're not from Chicago, you're from Milwaukee."

—Dave Eggers

"I'm really such a fabulist when it comes to my own past that I really can't trust a word I say."

—Zadie Smith, when asked about her childhood

"Writers are motherfuckers. We tell stories in a sneaky, underhanded way."

—Dorothy Allison on exploiting her family's secrets

"It doesn't seem to me to be the place a novelist should be working now. That's been done. If you want that, you should watch an episode of Columbo or something."

—Donna Tartt on why she did not resolve the mystery in The Little Friend

"Everybody has their own burning house, and it's not the same address. As long as we're aware that the house is on fire, we're obligated to do something."

—Sandra Cisneros on passion

"It's better than being trapped in a bookstore and everybody being all hot."

—Ethan Hawke on why he likes to give outdoor book readings

"It takes me about two weeks to describe a tree, because I never see trees. I can describe people, but I can't describe mountain ranges."

—Zadie Smith on her own shortcomings

"Most Americans think that I'm a very frugal terrorist."

—Brown author Richard Rodriguez, paraphrasing a Jew who married a Muslim

"I found poems I would be writing now, if I hadn't written them already."

—Adrienne Rich on rereading her old books

"Oh, everything, really."

—Seamus Heaney on what of the original text of Beowulf was lost in his recent translation

"Composition is easy. What's hard is having to throw most of what you write away."

—Donna Tartt, paraphrasing Bertolt Brecht

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