Sunday, November 4, 2012

In The Book Lover's Corner: Author Meghan Daum





What better way to start the week (after my 5 day bout with a nasty flu) than by introducing a new series: "In The Book Lover's Corner," in which I interview my favorite contemporary authors (Thomas Hardy would have also been nice).

I am so excited to have Meghan Daum as the first author featured. And it's not just because we went to the same school (Vassar), or because she wrote one of my all time favorite essays My Misspent Youth, but because if I told her that on a rainy Sunday in Singapore there is nothing I like better than checking out houses for sale on Martha's Vineyard (or in Tuscany...does it really matter?) I have a feeling she would understand. In fact, the obsession with real estate is the subject of her most recent book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House. A book that, needless to say, I completely identified with and devoured in two days. And yes, Mom, a copy is in the mail.


When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from even before I could write. When I was about three or four, I would obsessively draw pictures that told stories. I'd make them into books and then make my mother write the words according to my dictation. As I got older I realized my two big talents were playing the oboe and writing. And given that choice writing seemed like the more pragmatic path

How much of what you write is autobiographical?

It depends on the nature of the project. Much of my efforts center around my weekly newspaper column, which I guess is autobiographical in that I'm drumming up my own ideas and expressing them. But ultimately it's much more about society in general and the world at large. I wrote a novel, The Quality of Life Report, that a lot of people thought was autobiographical. I used to say it was "32.9 percent autobiographical" (or something like that). But really the parts that were most me were the ruminations and observations of the main character, who was actually quite different from me in many ways. As for personal essays, obviously they're autobiographical, though my rule is that they must transcend the merely personal and talk about larger ideas. The way I think of autobiography is that I use myself and my experiences as a tool for talking about more general phenomena. In other words, I'm a tool.

What is your writing routine?

My writing routine is, basically, avoid work until I'm right up against my deadline and then kill myself to get it done. I will then tell myself I'll never, ever let that happen again and will instead begin well ahead of the deadline and work steadily and sanely to render a perfect product. But that has never once happened.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm working on a book of new essays, loosely based around the theme of American sentimentality. It will be a bit in the same vein as my previous collection, My Misspent Youth, but whereas many of these essays had been published previously in magazines these will be almost entirely original. Some of the topics include death, patriotism, food, animals, and children.

What is on your night table?

On my night table right now is the inevitable stack of New York Review of Books that I have not and perhaps will never get around to reading. On top of that is David Rakoff's Half Empty, which I read much of long ago but am really enjoying revisiting, a galley of a new essay collection called This Is Running for Your Life by Michelle Orange, the David Foster Wallace biography by D.T. Max, and a bunch of tissues and errant earplugs. Probably also a section of the New York York Times from, like, three months ago.

You can also catch Meghan at http://meghandaum.com/
For now, that's all from the book lover's corner: happy reading! 


               
 

16 comments:

  1. I loved that essay as well-will be ordering her other books straightaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great! Let me know what you think!

      Delete
  2. Great conversation...can't wait to get her books! I hope I can find them in Athens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries-you can always order them on Amazon or from my booklover's corner!

      Delete
  3. What a great column! I like the author's work routine :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Elektra-glad you like it!! Definitely works for her!

      Delete
  4. Look forward to more of these interviews-I didn't know this author..but now I do-thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you-I look forward to writing them!

      Delete
  5. Cool. I can't wait to read the books.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I want to read her book on houses-I'm a real estate junkie too!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I didn't know this author-I will check her out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for pointing me towards this author!

    In other news: You've been nominated for a Liebster Award over on Singapore Tamtam! I hope you'll have the time to take a look :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Katrijn-I'm honored!! Will check it out right now...

      Delete
  9. Can't wait to read her books! Thanks for the tip.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Smart. i have mine on http://www.amazon.com/dp/1468181297 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1468181297 titled "The Great Conspiracy, The Black gods of Afrika" Kindly check it out.

    The Great Conspiracy is a short letter to the Afrikan child in a parabolic tone. It is a poetic riddle and in sum proverb. Is there remedy to the Afrikan problem? Can the Afrikan equation be solved? For a half a century since flag independence knocked on the Afrikan hut, the Afrikan political elite and comrade in cola have not been watching the Afrikan grass grow; instead as leaders upon whose shoulders, salvation of the Afrikan child from colonial pharaoh's slavery; read colonial culture, traditions, instrument of thought and in sum colonial gods duly lay as Moses and his blood brother Aaron were to Israelis while leading them from the yoke of bondage down Biblical Egypt to the promised land; have been to busy staying alive. How can we watch the Afrikan grass grow using a foreign eye? "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person amongst us Afrikan brothers who for one morsel of food sold his inheritance. For we all know Afrikan comrades that Esau did and afterwards, when he wanted to inherit the blessings later, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" It is a social remedy which should be sought and or is found nearer home; from Afrikan own environment, culture and traditions. It cannot be external to us and it cannot be derived from a foreign alien environment because its tone will forever distort the Afrikan deed if it were derived from a foreign alien environment. This is because its spices will be foreign and not tied or derived from an Afrikan environment, traditions, beliefs, history and culture. LANGUAGE IS AN INSTRUMENT OF THE HUMAN THOUGHT. IT IS THE SOLE KNOWN INSTRUMENT OF IDEA FORMATION. PROVERBIAL WISDOM IS WISDOM OF CAUTION.

    ReplyDelete