Monday, July 27, 2009

An Interview with Gunnar Jaeck

<--- Super humorous picture of me and my friend Gunnar partying sometime during our Spring semester at the University of East Anglia, where we both got our MA in Creative Writing: Prose.

Gunnar Jaeck lives in Brooklyn between the Dogz 4 Life Auto Club and a warehouse that sells meats, both wholesale and retail. There is a post-modern firehouse around the corner and a youth center up the street with a giant clock on the side that is only a quarter-circle. He has numerous injuries related to bicycle accidents.

What writing project are you working on right now?

Gunnar: It's a novel about the inhabitants of an unrenovated, half-condemned, coal-heated apartment building in contemporary Dresden, Germany. The hero is a theatrical sound designer/DJ who interprets his world primarily in terms of music and accoustics. The narrative spans a week during which his abusive partner is out of town, he becomes involved in the sound design for a modern dance performance, gets a new neighbor with bigger problems than his, almost goes deaf, plays with a dog, gets lost on a heath and loses his mentor to multiple heart attacks. It's also a Christmas story.

What excites you most about writing?

Gunnar: Besides the money and the drugs, I'd have to say the sex.

As a writer, what is your greatest challenge? How have you overcome that challenge, or how do you plan to overcome it?

Gunnar: People drilling holes in my wall and trying to tell me about their relationship problems in unspecific terms. This would be an easy challenge to overcome if the same people were doing both. As it stands, I'm thinking about switching my roommate's drill-bit with a pretzel stick while he's asleep, and then giving up on love. But I'm open to suggestions.

What book are you reading right now?

Gunnar: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth-Grahame-Smith.

What is your favorite book of all time and why?

Gunnar: The last one I finished, Two Cities by John Edgar Wideman, is a serious contender, but I should probably wait and see how I feel about it at a year from now. Rushing into things like this only saddles you with lots of dissapointment and regret further down the line when you realize that the book wasn't the book you thought it was and then you can't be honest with each other any more. I'm going to stick with Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann for now.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Gunnar: I once had occasion to hear Nadine Gordimer say, "Giving advice is dangerous," and Nadine Gordimer has a Nobel Prize, so she should know what she's talking about. Although if memory serves, she did then proceed to give some kind of advice, probably quite a bit of it, and to a room full of about a thousand people. And it was probably writing advice. I just can't remember what it was.

Most of the best advice from writers comes when they're not really thinking about what they're saying, I think. My undergraduate thesis advisor told me, "Maybe you should try to be less fair to your characters," one time, when it looked like he was checking his email. And he was right; the characters in my undergraduate thesis were fucking annoying. I've also heard tell from other quarters that my writing needed more guts, which may actually have been the same piece of advice.

Although I'm not sure if I should call that advice. Most of the good writing teaching I've received hasn't come in the form of advice. Teaching anything is more about making challenges than giving advice, and that might especially apply to the teaching of writing, something that everyone thinks they already know how to do. Giving advice might be dangerous. But if you really want to subvert some shit, see if you can get someone to do something they're afraid of.

Thanks, Gunnar! Happy writing!

No comments: