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Because I learned this private language, I’m included in something that’s larger than the sum of the individuals.
Latin connected me with the Church universal, and also with generations long dead.
Colloquial English by contract “only” connected me with the living.
In one of your previous interviews you commented that you consider fiction to be the constrained genre. RR: I don’t exactly think of fiction as a “constrained genre.” It is more simply that fiction is, for me, less intriguing than non-fiction. And I write always within the unforgiving borders of non-fiction.
I read histories and biographies and memoirs and essays. As a writer I am interested in the ways that the poetic impulse can be utilized in our writing of issues we normally consign to the social sciences and to journalism.
It’s a case of “How do I know what I think until I have written it down”. I write sometimes for newspapers and magazines of various sorts. If I am writing for a mass television audience obviously I am governed by rules of clarity and simplicity of diction (since most TV viewers will hear what I say but will not read my words).
The surprises for me always reveal themselves in the process of writing and seeing a topic over and over until something that is appealing and new—a metaphor, a helpful insight, a lovely sentence—suddenly shines through. The most ancient notions of writing propose that the writer is more passive than active. Thomas Aquinas says that writing is a kind of prayer, leaving oneself open, utterly vulnerable, to inspiration or God. If I am writing a literary essay that will probably be read by a small number of readers, obviously I can experiment with writing of a denser sort.
We turn to song, wherein the music of human voice renders words of secondary importance.
SL: Your writing about your early experiences with language, and the concepts of private and public languages, reminds me of how it is for me in synagogue.
Richard Rodriguez grew up in California, the son of immigrant Mexican parents.
He excelled academically, completed degrees at Stanford University and Columbia University, and was poised to continue in academia when he turned down offers from several prestigious schools, uncomfortable with the possibility that affirmative action gave him an unfair advantage.