St. John's my middle name. The books go under M.
I was on a panel last year where someone in the audience asked whether it gets easier with each novel. I said yes, it absolutely does, because when you write your first novel you have no idea if you can write a novel, and with each successive book there’s a slight but noticeable uptick in confidence: when you land in the inevitable bad moments where you’re flailing around and have no idea what you’re doing and you’re wondering if you’ve maybe just wasted a year or two of your life on an unworkable project, you can take comfort in the memory of having been here before, two or three times actually, and it worked out okay on those previous books, so no need to panic.
But then another writer on the panel said that she thought every novel should be equally difficult, because if you’re not scaring yourself and pushing far beyond the boundaries of what you think you can do every time, then you’re not going far enough, and lately I’ve been thinking that she was right.
“I know there are writers who like to say that every novel is hard and it doesn’t get easier. That may be the case, and I’ve only written two. But the first to me was characterized by an enduring oscillation between perseverance and a profound doubt.”— Rachel Kushner
Putting together a new author website, CSS-based this time, on the theory that while HTML 3.0 and nested framesets have served me well, it’s probably time to move on from the ’90s. Thus far I’ve learned that 1) CSS is very elegant and 2) terrible things happen when you forget to close div tags.
I went back through my old Facebook messages in search of an email address this morning, and was interested to note the existence of at least two dozen messages from 2010-2011 that I’d never seen before. Which raises the question of why I still have a Facebook account, since I mostly only use it for messaging now and apparently messaging doesn’t work, but anyway! If you sent me a Facebook message in 2010 or 2011 and never heard back, I probably wasn’t ignoring you on purpose.
Going through an old notebook. Two conversations overheard in France last month:
“I don’t speak French.”
“Didn’t you say you’re translating Baudelaire?”
“Yeah, it’s a good way to learn French.”
“Your English is excellent. Where did you pick it up?”
“In front of my television, watching Desperate Housewives.”
a few random notes
1. I finished Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and it’s a stunning book, all in all. I have a stack of novels I’ve been trying to get to, but I moved on to a non-fiction book about Saudi Arabia because I felt sorry for the next novel after The Goldfinch. I wish the Saudi Arabia book were better written, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. I hadn’t known, for instance, that there are seven thousand al Saud princes. Succession nightmare. It goes without saying that the princesses aren’t part of the equation.
2. Something I was thinking about today, on the subject of selfies, which I’ve tried very hard to understand but don’t: imagine if social media didn’t exist. If you were a selfie-inclined person, in that case, what you’d have to do is, you’d have to take a flattering picture of yourself, print out a few hundred copies, distribute them to your friends and family (“Hey, I took a picture of myself and I think I look good! Do you like it too?”) and maybe plaster some of the copies on trees and lampposts and such for the enjoyment of passersby. Which would be kind of a strange thing to do, and is, let’s face it, pretty much what people are doing when they post selfies on Facebook. Okay, carry on.
3. Station Eleven sold in Japan last week. I’m happy and excited about all of the countries in which the book has sold, and happy about the countries in which it hasn’t officially sold but will be distributed (hi Australia, I miss you), but something about jumping to a new alphabet is absolutely thrilling to me.