Saturday, September 30, 2006

try writing a book under these circumstances

I really hate to be reminded that I left behind a literary utopia, but there may be something to Sara Gran's anxiety of influence argument.

Let me tell you the hard truth: Brooklyn is the worst place on earth for a writer. The competition is fierce and sometimes deadly. The “local authors” shelf in your bookstore has Kathryn Harrison and Paul Auster. Take your laptop to your local coffee shop to do a little work, and you’re likely to find TourĂ© (“Soul City”) sitting at one end of the counter and Norman Mailer at the other.

Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss might be sharing the vegetarian special at a booth in the back, and don’t be surprised to find Colson Whitehead and Darin Strauss commiserating about book tours over coffee and pie.

The phrase “anxiety of influence” takes on a whole new meaning when your influences are right there in the room with you, eating lunch.

(This article actually brought back some fond memories of accosting Darin Strauss on the F train before I discovered he was spoken for. I had tangentially met him at Galapagos during his Real McCoy tour as part of a hilarious Little Gray Book lecture that somehow ended with me winning a copy of Fargo Rock City from Chuck Klosterman for guessing the right answer to something I now don't recall. Klosterman signed the book - "To Chris: You are the queen of rock" - my second favorite inscription ever.)