In 1946, George Orwell articulated the reasons why he put pen to paper in an essay entitled Why I Write.
In this Web series, authors talk about their literary habits and reading preferences,
and examine Orwell's question that lies at the heart of being an author—why they write.

Rachel Kushner

Telex From Cuba


Rachel Kushner’s debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008.


Why I write
I don’t know, I suppose if one reads a lot as a child, and is moved by literature, and finds that the world is there – the real one – that it’s only a matter of time before you want to try your hand at writing something. I like to read and write. They go together.


Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
I prefer to write every day that I can. Ideally I work for about six hours. Occasionally I take a day of only reading. But even then it’s ultimately about writing, taking notes in the margins, building my ideas in secret (one-sided) conversation with other peoples’ ideas.


Worst source of distraction?
Do I imagine that this question is crafted explicitly so that the writer will answer ‘Internet’? Or pointedly avoid that by saying something else? The form of distraction is not the thing, for me, it’s the nature and quality of the distraction. Sometimes it’s a good thing, healthy, to be distracted and let something you’ve done sift down. Other times, it’s pure masochism. But overall, distractions, to my mind, are not the real challenge. When one is deeply engaged, one is not easily distracted. When one is not properly engaged, the distraction is there as a convenient source of blame.


Best source of inspiration?
Reading and watching films. Also, rare moments of basic human clarity.


How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
Doubt can be a very useful tool, I feel confident about this one thing, the usefulness of doubt. I don’t believe in writer’s block, necessarily, but in processes, and in gestations that are long, mysterious, and sometimes cunning, other times maddening, spirit-defiling et cetera. You have to have faith.


Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
Novelists Don DeLillo and Denis Johnson, and poets Wayne Koestenbaum, Dan Hoy, Ariana Reines. The laser printer mounted on Roberto Bolaño’s grave. I try to catch all the spitting pages. They’re all pretty good.


Favorite book?
Proust, Swann’s Way.


Favorite writer?
Proust, once again, if the question forces a favorite, but of course real life does not work that way. There are constellations, sensibilities one borrows from and or admires. For me it’s not a hierarchy with one writer on each rung.


The book you should have read but haven’t?
A Man without Qualities. But I am going to read it soon. Then there would be a different answer to this question. Thank god there are books one should have read but haven’t. That can simply be reworded: the books one is looking forward to reading.


You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
It was an essay on an illegal motorcycle roadrace I did when I was young, and I am borrowing from it now, for my next novel.


Does writing change anything?
What is change? Writing upholsters life with meaning.

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Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by JFK Miller No Comments