The New Yorker

A selection of stories from The New Yorker’s archive

The Story Behind the Novel

Where do novels come from? Great ones seem almost miraculous; it’s amazing to think that each rich world was created within a single mind. This week, we bring you stories about novelists and their imaginative work. Hilton Als shows us how Toni Morrison wrote “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved”; Larissa MacFarquhar ventures into the haunted, historical universe of Hilary Mantel. Thomas Mallon chronicles the making of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” while Margaret Talbot explores the passions behind Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt,” which was adapted into the film “Carol.” Finally, Louis Menand unearths the history and politics behind Richard Condon’s “The Manchurian Candidate,” and Anthony Burgess himself, in an essay originally written in 1973, explains how he came up with the idea for “A Clockwork Orange.” A novel, Burgess writes, might be inspired by an “uncontainable concern or anger with something taking place in the real world.” Novelists, in other words, do more than invent and fantasize. They try to see reality more clearly than the rest of us.

—David Remnick

Richard Condon, 1969.

A Critic at Large|September 15, 2003



Photograph by Dan Winters

Life and Letters|June 4 & 11, 2012

The Clockwork Condition


“Being a black woman writer is not a shallow place to write from,” Morrison says. “It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it.”

Profiles|October 27, 2003

Ghosts in the House


Of “Wolf Hall,” Mantel says, “I knew from the first paragraph this was going to be the best thing I’d ever done. It began to unscroll before me like a film.”

Profiles|October 15, 2012

The Dead Are Real


Lee triumphed with a novel that avoided moral complexity.

Books|May 29, 2006

Big Bird


A blonde in a mink coat made Highsmith feel “swimmy in the head, near to fainting.”

A Critic at Large|November 30, 2015

Forbidden Love