Tag Archives: Kafka

The Next Big Thing

    *Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing*


Thanks to Shara McCallum for inviting me to post about The Next Big Thing. Her blogpost may be found here.

What is your working title of your book?

    The Book of Lost Aphorisms

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I began writing aphorisms, initially in poetry, but increasingly tending to prose, beginning in July, 2007, after reading a little book called Zürau Aphorisms, translated by Michael Hofmann. In Kafka, there are aphorisms that, rather than delimiting something small, seem capable of offering a Weltanschauung, a world view, as in the justly famous aphorism that ends the collection:

It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can do no other, it will writhe before you in ecstasy.—Kafka

Here is an aphorism that verges on being a parable: a small story that teaches. It strikes me that this is a self-portrait of the artist as a receptacle versus creator of reality. It is no accident that I use Kafka’s aphorism as the epigraph to a book which seeks to rebut its point of view—or to provide a counterpoint to it:

You must leave home and walk and talk to everyone. Listen, impatiently. Wait, move, and be companionable. You will be offering yourself to the world to be redressed, you can’t avoid it: You will shimmy before the world in agony and bliss.

What genre does your book fall under?
Creative nonfiction. Travel. Memoir. Prose poem. Hybrid form.

The spirit of a place shapes my aphorisms, as well as my proclivity to write them in a sequence—where they build upon each other—as opposed to plucking isolated nuggets from life’s tree. This is an unusual way to write aphorisms but I am interested in expanding the notion of what an aphorism can be: from a pithy saying; to an image or personal thought; to an entire sequence of thoughts, images, and sayings that, like an origami creature leaps into being, unfolds in the reader’s mind.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
As these aphoristic sequences are relentlessly non-narrative, some times circular, digressive, quotational, obsessive, imagistic, I can’t imagine how or why a movie would be made of them. I’m more interested in writing the movie-of-the mind.

What is the one- or two-sentence synopsis of your book?
“The aphorist assumes that small truths can be packed into a sentence the way the olive packs its fruit around the pit.” The best synopsis for a book of aphorisms is to quote an aphorism about aphorisms.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither, but who can tell? I assume a small-press publisher might publish me, unless I get as famous as David Shields, whose new book is a close cousin to what I do.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It’s still in progress. I have over 100 pages that are fully written and revised.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
No one does exactly what I do because I am writing sequences of aphorisms, not discrete aphorisms. And each sequence is my intimate series of thoughts, images, meditations on self/place. Books that come to mind are by Yahia Lababidi’s Signposts to Elsewhere, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Bed of Procrustes, Kafka’s Zürau Aphorisms, any of Jabes’s many volumes of The Book of Questions; David Shields’s How Literature Saved My Life, James Richardson’s Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays. Also, as you may have noticed, I am the only woman on this list.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The piquancy of place. My son placing limits on my attention span. Kafka. Edmond Jabès. The paucity of women writing aphorisms. My evolving foray into prose.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? “Does one need to feel lost in order to write—or read—a lost aphorism? Or is there a recuperative quality to both experiences?”—from the title sequence, “The Book of Lost Aphorisms.” Thus far, my other chapters, providing a personal odyssey through place are: “Naxos Aphorisms,” “Istanbul Diary,” “Pessoa in Lisboa” (Portugal), “Andalusian Wind”, “Basque Baskings,” “French Flares,” and “New York Aphorisms.” There is a sequence that braids together “Aphorisms of the Heart” and “Mortal Aphorisms.” The book will be finished when I say it is—when I feel I have traveled to and written about enough places, enough internal states.

Look for posts next week by the following writers whose work I admire:
Susan Wheeler
Ann Fisher-Wirth
Daniel Nester
Jennifer Michael Hecht