Elisa Gabbert at The Paris Review:
Nabokov spoke of shimmers too. “Literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him,” he said in a lecture in 1948. “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story, there is a shimmering go-between.” In this view, it seems to me, the writer’s not the wraith who can pass between realms of reality and fantasy. The art itself is the wraith, which the artist only grasps at. Elsewhere, Nabokov writes that inspiration comes in the form of “a prefatory glow, not unlike some benign variety of the aura before an epileptic attack.” In his Paris Review interview, Martin Amis describes the urge to write this way: “What happens is what Nabokov described as a throb. A throb or a glimmer, an act of recognition on the writer’s part. At this stage the writer thinks, Here is something I can write a novel about.” Amis also saw images, a sudden person in a setting, as if a pawn had popped into existence on a board: “With Money, for example, I had an idea of a big fat guy in New York, trying to make a film. That was all.” Likewise for Don DeLillo: “The scene comes first, an idea of a character in a place. It’s visual, it’s Technicolor—something I see in a vague way. Then sentence by sentence into the breach.” For these writers that begin from something like hallucination, the novel is a universe that justifies the image, a replica of Vegas to be built out of words.