undefinedDrawing by Hans Beck, 1962.

The interview took place in the living room of the apartment in Paris where Miss McCarthy was staying during the winter of 1961.It was a sunny, pleasant room, not too large, with long windows facing south toward the new buildings going up along the avenue Montaigne.A dining-cum-writing table stood in an alcove at one end;on it were a lamp, some books and papers, and a rather well-worn portable typewriter.At the other end of the room were several armchairs and a low sofa where Miss McCarthy sat while the interview was recorded.On this early-spring afternoon, the windows were open wide, letting in a warm breeze and the noise of construction work nearby.An enormous pink azalea plant bloomed on the balcony, and roses graced a small desk in one corner.

McCarthy settled down on the sofa and served coffee.She was wearing a simple beige dress with little jewelry—a large and rather ornate ring was her one elaborate ornament.She is a woman of medium height, dark, with straight hair combed back from a center part into a knot at the nape of her neck;this simple coiffure sets off a profile of beautiful, almost classic regularity.Her smile is a generous one, flashing suddenly across her face, crinkling up her wide-set eyes.She speaks not quickly, but with great animation and energy, gesturing seldom;it is typical of her that she matches the tremendously elegant carriage of her arms and neck and handsomely poised head with a deliberate, almost jerky motion in taking a step.

While McCarthy’s conversation was remarkably fluent and articulate, she nevertheless often interrupted herself in order to reword or qualify a phrase, sometimes even impatiently destroying it and starting again in the effort to express herself as exactly as possible.Several times during the interview she seized upon a question in such a way that one felt she had decided upon certain things she wanted to say about herself and would willy-nilly create the opportunity to do so.At other moments, some of them hilarious—her pitiless wit is justifiably celebrated—she would indulge in unpremeditated extravagances of description or speculation that she would then laughingly censor as soon as the words were out of her mouth.She was extremely generous in the matter of silly or badly worded questions, turning them into manageable ones by the nature of her response.In all, her conversation was marked by a scrupulous effort to be absolutely fair and honest, and by a kind of natural and exuberant enjoyment of her own intellectual powers.

面试官

Do you like writing in Europe?

MARY McCARTHY

I don’t really find much difference.I think if you stayed here very long, you’d begin to notice a little difficulty about language.

面试官

Did you write about Europe when you first came here after the war?

McCARTHY

Only in that short story, “The Cicerone.” That was in the summer of 1946.We were just about the only tourists because you weren’t allowed to travel unless you had an official reason for it.I got a magazine to give me some sort ofcarnet.

面试官

Did the old problem, the American in Europe, interest you as a novelist?

McCARTHY

I suppose at that time, at least in that story somewhat, it did.But no, not further.For one thing, I don’t know whether I cease to feel so much like an American or what;New York is, after all, so Europeanized, and so many of one’s friends are European, that the distinction between you as an American and the European blurs.Also Europe has become so much more Americanized.No, I no longer see that Jamesian distinction.I mean, I see it in James, and I could see it even in 1946, but I don’t see it anymore.I don’t feel anymore this antithesis of Young America, Old Europe.I think that’s really gone.For better or worse, I’m not sure.Maybe for worse.

面试官

What about the novel you’re writing while you’re here—have you been working on it a long time?

McCARTHY

Oh, years!Let me think, I began it around the time of the first Stevenson campaign.Then I abandoned it and wrote the books on Italy, andA Charmed Life,andMemories of a Catholic Girlhood.When did I begin this thing again?A year ago last spring, I guess.Part of it came out inPartisan Review.The one called “Dottie Makes an Honest Woman of Herself.”

面试官

Is it unfair to ask you what it will be about?

McCARTHY

No, it’s very easy.It’s calledThe Group,and it’s about eight Vassar girls.It starts with the inauguration of Roosevelt, and—well, at first it was going to carry them up to the present time, but then I decided to stop at the inauguration of Eisenhower.It was conceived as a kind of mock-chronicle novel.这部小说是关于进步的想法,真的。The idea of progress seen in the female sphere, the feminine sphere.You know, home economics, architecture, domestic technology, contraception, childbearing;the study of technology in the home, in the playpen, in the bed.It’s supposed to be the history of the loss of faith in progress, in the idea of progress, during that twenty-year period.

面试官

Are these eight Vassar girls patterned more or less after ones you knew when you were there in college?

McCARTHY

Some of them are drawn pretty much from life, and some of them are rather composite.I’ve tried to keep myself out of this book.Oh, and all their mothers are in it.That’s the part I almost like the best.

面试官

Just the mothers, not the fathers?

McCARTHY

Not the fathers.The fathers vaguely figure, offstage and so on, but the mothers are really monumentally present!

面试官

Does it matter to you at all where you write?

McCARTHY

Oh, a nice peaceful place with some good light.

面试官

Do you work regularly, every morning, say?

McCARTHY

Normally;right now I haven’t been.Normally I work from about nine to two, and sometimes much longer—if it’s going well, sometimes from nine to seven.

面试官

Typewriter?

McCARTHY

Typewriter, yes.This always has to get into aParis Reviewinterview!I very rarely go out to lunch.That’s a rule.I’ve been accepting lunch dates recently—whydidn’t I remember that?My excuse—the excuse I’ve been forgetting—is simply that I don’t go out to lunch!And in general, I don’t.That was the best rule I ever made.