Susan Choi: When Is a Writer Supposed to Read?
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Susan Choi is today’s guest. Her novel, Trust Exercise, is available in trade paperback from Henry Holt. It is the winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction..
From the episode:
Susan Choi: I’ve been home. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the stuff that I have. My family is healthy. I finished my semester online. I teach fiction writing. I still have a job. My kids are in online school, which is a drag relatively speaking. We’re good. We feel really fortunate. Our neighborhood is a lovely place to be, even in this weird, dark time. We go out for walks. Our neighbors open their windows and blast music at 7 o’clock to thank the essential workers. It’s been a weirdly tranquil time, with an undercurrent of dread, confusion, and uncertainty about the future. But within the moment, it’s been all right.
Brad Listi: I feel the same way. I’ve had conflicting theories bouncing around in my head about all this, but sometimes I’m able to convince myself that writers are uniquely adapted for a pandemic and shelter in place since so many of us are used to solitude in an unusual degree. For a working writer to be cloistered in their house or apartment is not necessarily the strangest set of circumstances. Do you feel that? Do you feel that I’m ready for this and to handle this?
Susan Choi: I totally agree. I think writers are used to having a long, solitary work day. We’re used to not having the office camaraderie where we go in and see people. We don’t feel deprived of that. One of the things that’s supported my solitude as a writer is seeing people at the end of the day, and that’s what I really miss. I feel that sagging of the spirits almost every day at five or six where I think, it’s still a day where I’m at home. There’s not going to be any going out to see a movie or meet with a friend. There’s not going to be any of that social experience that I would reward myself with after a solitary day. As a writer, that’s something that I have had to adjust too. However, there’s been a lot of peace in this quarantine. Just time to read a book. It’s ridiculous, but I constantly puzzle over the problem of when to read. As writers, it’s important to read, and I can never figure out when that’s supposed to happen.
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Susan Choi’s first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. Her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. Her third novel, A Person of Interest, was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2010 she was named the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award. Her fourth novel, My Education, received a 2014 Lammy Award. Her first book for children, Camp Tiger, was published in 2019. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she teaches fiction writing at Yale and lives in Brooklyn.