Robert Phillips’s conversational yet penetrating approach yields self-assessments that read like new essays by the writers themselves. Conducted over the course of twenty years, many of these pieces were first published in the Paris Review. Taken from a passage by Henry James, the title speaks to the “madness” that drives our greatest works of creativity. Phillips’s interviews bring out this “madness” in its most important sense: the writers are seers and visionaries, whose works inspire us beyond the limits of reason. The conversations recorded in The Madness of Art attain that same level of inspiration and power.
Phillips questions his interviewees about their work methods, daily lives, influences, sources of inspiration, relationship to other literary figures, response to critics, choice of genre, audience, and reasons for writing.