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20 Incredibly Rare Author Interviews Unearthed


Readers often love to see into the minds of the authors who have penned their favorite books, but sometimes, doing so is next to impossible. There are a variety of reasons why it might be difficult to track down an author interview: the writers in question only offered interviews along the same general frequency as Halley's Comet, or they typically pop up in different media, or some even lose the footage over time. But despite these struggles, the following reads, listens, and watches all earned consideration. Some of these prove far more available than others, of course, but each one stands as a lovely look into a powerful, creative mind. Yes, even the ones who tend to communicate in itty-bitty quips.

  1. Philip Roth at The Telegraph, May 20, 2011

    Shortly after earning the International Man Booker Prize, beloved Jewish-American author of Portnoy's Complaint, The Human Stain, and myriad other medium-spanning works granted The Telegraph's Benjamin Taylor a brief chat about writing, his love of history, John Updike, and other topics.

  2. H.G. Wells and Orson Welles on KTSA, October 1940

    Happenstance brought together the War of the Worlds author and seminal actor and filmmaker who infamously adapted it for a Halloween radio show in San Antonio. The pair discuss both the bizarre incident and the parallels between science-fiction and then-current World War terrors.

  3. Cormac McCarthy at The New York Times, April 19, 1992

    These days, Cormac McCarthy is known almost as much as something of a media hermit as he is the author of All the Pretty Horses, The Road, No Country for Old Men, and other gritty Southern dramas. He continues shunning most journalists, but did pop out of his self-imposed exile long enough to "talk rattlesnakes, molecular computers, country music, [and] Wittgenstein" with The New York Times' Richard B. Woodward.

  4. Harper Lee at The Daily Mail, June 27, 2010

    The Daily Mail (of all places) headed to Monroeville, Ala. and scored a brief audience with Harper Lee around the 50th anniversary of her seminal To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, there was a catch – Sharon Churcher couldn't ask one question about the game-changing novel. So the resulting article wound up rather thin indeed.

  5. J.D. Salinger at The New York Times, November 3, 1974

    It took more than two decades before the Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey writer would smash his media silence for Lacy Fosburgh of The New York Times. What incited the truly rare event was the unauthorized publication of some older writings.

  1. Daphne du Maurier on BBC2, 1971

    The notoriously interview-adverse Rebecca scribe eventually showcased her Cornish home to Wilfred De'Ath of the BBC and delved into her career in her very first television interview.

  2. Don DeLillo at The Guardian, Aug.

    7, 2010

    Although madly press-shy, renowned American postmodernist Don DeLillo allowed Robert McCrum an interview possibly because they share a mutual friend in Paul Auster. The result was a fantastic, insightful glimpse into the process behind an exciting mind.

  3. Thomas Pynchon on CNN, June 7, 1997

    Well, it wasn't an interview so much as a brief, playful chat that ultimately never saw release, but CNN still impresses with its ability to get Thomas Pynchon to say ANYTHING! Even if it's just how he isn't really a recluse so much as not terribly fond of reporters.

  4. William S. Burroughs at The October Gallery, cir. 1997

    Beat movement cornerstone William S. Burroughs may not have lived as elusively as many of the other authors listed here, but partnering with the legendary Kathy Acker at an October Gallery proved a once-in-a-lifetime event before both passed.

  5. Carlos Castaneda for Audio-Forum's "Sound Seminar," 1968

    Prior to The Teaching of Don Juan's exploding, which left many genuinely questioning its veracity, the author — Carlos Castaneda — still studied anthropology at UCLA. He eventually retreated from the public view in the early 1970s to further study shamanism, making this radio talk with Theodore Rosak rather rare.

  1. Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Sep. 19, 1995

    Pope John Paul II proved a prolific writer in his lifetime, with plenty of books, letters, and essays to his name, but men in his political and religious position rarely entertain the time for interviews. Vittorio Messori published a novel-length interview with the pontiff in 1995, covering a wide range of Catholic topics from a more personal perspective.

  2. Marcel Proust at Le Temps, November 1913

    This audio transcript of Marcel Proust's interview at Le Temps is in French and appears to be its only online presence. Considering the In Search of Lost Time (which he opens up about here) artiste's notorious hermit lifestyle, it's rather stunning he even courted the media at all.

  3. Bill Watterson at The Plain Dealer, Feb. 1, 2010

    Laudable Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson's email exchange with John Campanelli might very well be his first media interaction since 1989.

  4. J.M. Coetzee at DN.se, Dec. 8, 2003

    Although this Nobel winner makes occasional appearances at readings and the like, rarely will he ever compromise his valued privacy to grant an interview — although David Attwell managed to encourage him to publicly discuss his award and the literary canon as a whole.

  5. Arthur Conan Doyle for Movietone News, October 1928

    Filmed at his own home, the Sherlock Holmes creator talks to William Fox about his belief in terrestrial communication with the deceased and other occult practices he found exhilarating. Some think this interview, in which he talks both his beloved detective and spirituality, might be the only one he ever conducted on tape.

  1. Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn for Democracy Now!, April 16, 2007

    Neither of these progressive political and social staples are strangers to the media machine by anyone's definition, but appearing at the same time proves a different story altogether. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman paired the legendary linguist with the legendary historian for a fiery Patriots Day conversation about then-current events.

  2. Denis Johnson at the National Book Foundation, 2007

    Press-shunning Denis Johnson emerged ever so briefly after receiving a National Book Award finalist honor for a very short exchange with Bret Anthony Johnston about Tree of Smoke.

  3. William Fuller at Quid, March 2007

    Eirik Steinhoff managed to catch up with a brilliant metaphysical poet at his most unlikely day job — as the Chief Fiduciary Officer of a Chicago bank.

  4. Edward Albee at Sydney Theatre Company, 2009

    Public interviews of the elderly Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf playwright are scarce, and his appearance at the Sydney Theatre Company proved polarizing among theater critics and aficionados.

  5. Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Beckett: A Portrait of Samuel Beckett, 1987/1994

    Because Samuel Beckett wanted so to avoid the spotlight, interviews with him rarely crop up, which is what makes this taped interview from 1987 all the more resonant.

March 19th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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