Mittwoch, 28. Mai 2008

99 Reasons Not To Write.


1. I cut my finger.

2. I have a cold.

3. I have a headache.

4. I have a tooth ache.

5. I have a hangover.

6. I have to go to the gynecologist

7. I am tired.

8. I am hungry.

9. I need to donate blood.

10. I need a new haircut.

11. I have to buy a birthday gift.

12. I’m sorting out old cloths.

13. I take the cloths to the Salvation Army.

14. I have to clean the house.

15. I have to shop for dinner.

16. I have to cook dinner.

17. The pasta sauce on the stove bubbles over, makes a big mess and I spend time cleaning it up.

18. I don't have a wife.

19. I 'm intimidated by great writers.

20. I will never be a great writer like Thomas Bernhard.

21. I don't feel like writing.

22. I will never be a great writer like Kurt Vonnegut.

23. I will never be a great writer like Ernest Hemingway.

24. I will never make the New York Times bestseller list.

25. I don't have an agent.

26. I don't have a platform.

27. No one answers my queries.

28. I'm not getting paid for writing.

29. I study the Guide to Literary Agents.

30. I study the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.

31. I'm too old to embark on a writing career.

32. I'm not a success story.

33. I’m intimidated by genius.

34. I'm intimidated by Junot Diaz.

35. I'm intimidated by literary Wunderkinder who publish great novels at age 25.

36. I don't practice what I preach.

37. I wasted my morning and I can't write at night.

38. I don't do morning pages.

39. I don't do writing exercises.

40. I'm upset that I have not published more.

41. I'm upset by rejection letters.

42. I'm upset that I never met Gertrude Stein.

43. I read Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser for the 100th time.

44. I read too many literary magazines.

45. I read too many online literary magazines.

46. I have too many books; it’s a great distraction.

47. I read obituaries of famous writers.

48. I write condolence letters.

49. I attend readings of famous writers.

50. I'm translating a famous writer.

51. I prefer to read.

52. I study The New York Times thoroughly.

53. I read the works of the members of my writing group.

54. I read the works of my students.

55. There are too many books already in this world.

56. I will never be a great writer like Thomas Bernhard.

57. It's sunny outside.

58. I watch the children on the swings.

59. I don't want to stay indoors.

60. I want to be on the beach.

61. I need to exercise.

62. I ride my bike in Central Park.

63. I visit James Baldwin's grave.

64. I visit Billie Holiday’s grave.

65. These trips take up a lot of time.

66. I return books to the library.

67. I rearrange the books on my bookshelf.

68. I sort out books because I have no more room on my book shelves.

69. I can’t decide which books to let go off.

70. I bring the rejected books to Housing Works bookstore.

71. I browse the Housing Works bookstore.

72. I learn Italian.

73. I watch a movie and analyze why the story doesn't work.

74. I have the wrong pen.

75. My fountain pen needs a new cartridge.

76. I waste time at Staples.

77. I answer callers who conduct surveys.

78. I check my e-mails several times a day.

79. I answer long overdue letters and e-mails.

80. I transfer my contact list from one e-mail provider to another.

81. I study for my citizenship test.

82. I have to go to the immigration office.

83. I listen to Rhythm Revue on WBGO.

84. I will never be a great writer like Thomas Bernhard.

85. I make travel plans.

86. I surf the world wide waste of time

87. I live in the wrong century.

88. I live in the wrong century.

89. I'm too rebellious.

90. I’m too intellectual.

91. I’m too dull.

92. I'm in love with the German language.

93. My brain doesn't work in English.

94. I counsel friends on the phone.

95. I think of past boyfriends.

96. I reminisce about the great sex I had in the past.

97. I have not experienced anything worthwhile writing about.

98. I read Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser for the 101th time.

99. I will never be a great writer like Thomas Bernhard.

Mittwoch, 14. Mai 2008

Thoughts of an Emerging Writer

I was thrilled to participate in Periodically Speaking: Literary- Magazine Editors Introduce Emerging Writers at the New York Public Library (May 13, 08). Willard Cook, editor of Ep;phany, had invited me. Four years ago, at the Cornelia Street Café, I read a story in public for the first time. I was introduced as an emerging writer then also.

English is not my native tongue. Often, I think I know the meaning of a word when I really don't. Having been called an emerging writer twice I finally looked up the word. I always pictured a diver jumping from a spring board, doing a few twists and somersaults, then emerging from the water and leaving the pool.

How was this connected to writing? The Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines emerge /emerging as

  1. come up or out into view.
  2. become known, be revealed to.
  3. become recognized or prominent.
  4. become apparent.

When does a writers stop to be an emerging writer? When she has published a book? When her book sells well? When she gets reviewed? When she gets a good review? When she makes the best seller list? Literary fame is a fickle mistress. German writer Wilhelm Genazino wrote in his essay A gift That Fails. On the Lack of Literary Success (translated by me and forthcoming with Dimension 2):

What is success? What is failure? Is publication success or is publication followed by silence the beginning of failure? … Isn't literature, not belonging to a society where mere literary success does not matter at all, the biggest failure?....The names Musil, Svevo, Fleißer, and Broch stand for an interdependent pain tumbling down our cultural century with unhurried brutality. Ronald Barthes called writing “spending oneself for nothing.” There is true despair about literature’s afterlife hidden in this phrase’s mundane elegance.

I feel honored to be considered an emerging writer, honored that some editors appreciate my work and my take on life. I am glad that my friends enjoy my stories. It doesn't matter that I do not have an agent, that I have not published a novel, that I will never make the New York Times bestseller list.

Writing is foremost my solitary pleasure. I write to please myself. But I also write to communicate. I reach out to the reader to share my experiences, my thoughts and my delight in storytelling. I hope to enter into a dialogue with the reader. I respectfully disagree with Ronald Barthes.

Writing I'm spending myself for something.

Montag, 5. Mai 2008

Pen World Voices Internationales Literaturfestival

Ich schreibe selten in Deutsch, doch gerade habe ich einen Brief in Deutsch geschrieben und nun schaltet sich mein Gehirn nicht mehr auf Englisch um.

Das internationale Literaturfestival Pen Word Voices --sechs Tage, 171 Veranstaltung , 51 Schriftsteller-- ist gestern zu Ende gegangen. In Deutschland stammen mehr als 50% aller übersetzten Bücher aus den USA oder England. Weniger als 3% aller in den USA vertriebenen Bücher sind aus anderen Sprachen übersetzt worden. Das Pen Word Voices Festival ist meine einmalige Gelegenheit herauszufinden was im Rest der Welt gelesen wird.

Hier meine Festival Highlights: Die Kunst des Versagens-- Hommage an Thomas Bernhard. Nicht nur ich bin Bernhard- besessen. Viele Schriftsteller wurden vom Thomas Bernhard Virus angesteckt. Am neugierigsten machte mich Horacio Castellanos Moya aus San Salvador. Im Exil in Mexiko dachte er am Sylvesterabend mit Unlust an die bevorstehende Party und seine gescheiterte Liebesbeziehung und begann im Stil Thomas Bernhards, mit dessen Wut zu schreiben. Daraus wurde Ekel: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador (bisher erst in spanisch und französisch erhältlich).

Michael Krüger vom Hanser Verlag las Gedichte und aus seinem neusten Roman. Er sprach mit Lila Ayam Zanganeh von Le Monde über all die Schriftsteller, die sich in Turin umgebracht haben, sein Idol Kafka und weshalb nicht schreibende Schriftsteller die besseren Schriftsteller sind. Krüger denkt, dass sich in Amerika die Einbildungskraft besser entfalten kann und dass Amerika deshalb bessere Schreiber hervorbringt.

Das Gespräch zwischen anderen Arnon Grunberg und Yael Hedaya war urkomisch. Hedaya hat in Israel das Skript für Betipul (In Behandlung) geschrieben. Inzwischen wurde es von HBO gekauft (Therapy). Mein Lieblingssatz: My main goal in life is to be in therapy with a brilliant therapist.

Weitere Leckerbissen:

Für Ingo Schulz ist Wolfgang Hilbig der beste deutsche Schriftsteller.

Das Tribut für Robert Walser u.a. mit Jeffrey Eugenides und Wayne Kostenbaum.

Leaving Home mit Dinaw Mengestu, György Dragoman und Sasa Stanisic.

Krönender Abschluß im Tempel der Bücher, der Public Libary an der 5. Avenue: die Veranstaltung Books That Changed My Life. Vielsprachentalent Paul Holdengräber-- seine Eltern sind Wiener Juden-- moderierte. Dabei fand ich heraus, dass für

Catherine Millet Balzac von größter Bedeutung war. Für Annie Proulx war es Jack London, für Antonio Munoz Molina Faulkner.

Die anderen deutschsprachigen Schreiber Bernard Schlink, Daniel Kehlmann, Jutta Richter, Evelyn Schlag, Erika Stucky habe ich alle verpasst. Ihre Bücher kann ich mir im Goethe Haus oder beim nächsten Deutschlandbesuch besorgen. Diesmal war ich mehr an Thant Myint-U aus Burma, Rabib Alameddine aus dem Libanon, Yousef Al-Mohaimeed aus Saudi-Arabien, den afrikanischen und lateinamerikanischen Schriftstellern interessiert.

Es hat sich gelohnt jeden Tag den strahlenden Sonnenschein zu ignorieren, stundenlang in fensterlosen Räumen zu verbringen. Aus Liebe zur Literatur.

Jetzt habe ich Lesestoff für die nächsten zwei Jahre. Dabei wollte ich eigentlich schreiben