Claire Messud

Literary Birthday – 8 October – Claire Messud

Happy Birthday, Claire Messud, born 8 October 1966.


  1. We read to find life, in all its possibilities.
  2. I wanted to write a voice that for me, as a reader, had been missing from the chorus: the voice of an angry woman.
  3. Everything I write is different, so I can’t really generalise about where I begin. But character is very important to me – it’s why I write, I think; that and language. And if you really know a character, then you figure out how they would behave in a given situation. And the plot comes out of that, really.
  4. Maybe that, really, is as good a definition as any of an artist in the world: a ruthless person.
  5. If I had to summarise, most broadly, my concerns as a writer, I’d say the question ‘How then must we live?’ is at the heart of it, for me.
  6. Even when people try to say things, they say them poorly or obliquely, or they outright lie, sometimes because they’re lying to you, but as often because they’re lying to themselves.
  7. The more accurately one can illuminate a particular human experience, the better the work of art.
  8. The apartment was entirely, was only, for her: a wall of books, both read and unread, all of them dear to her not only in themselves, their tender spines, but in the moments or periods they evoked… Her self, then, was represented in her books; her times in her records; and the rest of the room she thought of as a pure, blank slate.
  9. Yes, writing is essential to me. It’s my way of living in the world.
  10. I believe that, in an ideal world, writers would feel free to write what matters to them without having to consider success, failure, the market, etc.
  11. The effort to create a work of art that is true and potentially lasting, that is the very best work of art you can create at that point in your life – a book that may only reach or move a few people but will seem to those people somehow transformative. That’s the ideal; that’s always the motivation.
  12. Geniuses have the shortest biographies.

Claire Messud is an American author and literature and creative writing professor. She is best known for her novels, The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs.

Source for Image

Nightscream, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 8th October 2013