TALKING ABOUT THINKING: A FAIRLY LONG INTERVIEW WITH CLANCY MARTIN by Lincoln Michel
Clancy Martin is a writer and philosophy professor. But it is his former life as a Dallas-Fort Worth area jeweler that provides the setting for his exciting debut novel,How to Sell, which was released by FSG in May of 2009. I sat down with him over a hotel lobby breakfast to talk about philosophy versus fiction, Apollo versus Dionysus, Thomas Pynchon versus Denis Johnson, minimalism versus lyricism, and one or two other things.
All art courtesy of Andrew Bulger.
GIGANTIC: You grew up in Canada, but moved to Dallas when you were young where you became a jeweler and also wrote and published your first stories. Then you got a PhD in philosophy and became a professor in Kansas City. Now you've written a great novel out on FSG. Was writing fiction a constant throughout all this or was it something you did when you were a jeweler and came back to after becoming a professor?
Clancy Martin: Fiction was an important part of my high school life—and I never graduated from high school, I was repeatedly kicked out of high school and never graduated—but at the time I was writing an enormous amount of poetry, like most of us at that age, and a little bit of fiction. I thought I was one of these bread-not-art people. I thought I wanted to be a scientist and make a real contribution and blah blah blah. But everything I loved was fiction and poetry. And then early on in college, I had a teacher who told me, "Clancy, you could be a great critic if you want to be, but you could never be a writer of fiction. You just don't have that in you." So I listened to him.
GIGANTIC: [laughs] Now you can stick it to him. Mail him a copy of How to Sell.
CM: [laughs] Exactly. I don't even remember his name. He was a super nice guy. But you have to be careful what you say to your students because sometimes they actually listen to you. Now I know as a professor you are busy thinking about your wife or thinking about how you want to get to the bar and you are tossing off irresponsible remarks and your students are really listening to you.
Anyway, so I stopped writing fiction for a long time and then I started writing again when I was in the jewelry business as a way of basically keeping myself from committing suicide, honestly. Every morning I'd go back to bathroom and stick that gun in my mouth—and this is not made up. But I just couldn't make myself do it. I didn't have the courage. And I'd go back and write in those very early mornings, sniffing cocaine and writing. Then in the evenings I'd do the same thing. It was the only thing that made any sense to me at the time. Everything else was so crazy.
When I decided to go back to graduate school, I told myself the only way I'm going to get a dissertation written is if I stopped writing fiction. I loved writing fiction too much and it would always be an excuse to stop writing this stupid, boring dissertation. I didn't write one single piece of fiction for two years, and then as soon as my dissertation was done I started writing stories again. I remember I sent a story off to Diane Williams called "Yellow Snake," although it wound up being called "The Happiest." A true story about the time I was with this prostitute in Thailand. Diane called me in my office and said, "You're back!"
GIGANTIC: Returning to the story "Yellow Snake," one thing I've noticed in your fiction is the frequent use of the color yellow. You read a story at the 2009 launch party where a man had a lemon yellow finger. Then there is the prostitute Yellow Snake. You have a story where the father has a yellow body. I also wrote down here that the first time I met you, you were wearing a yellow herringbone blazer and you are actually wearing it right now. Is there something that attracts you to this color?
CM: [laughs] Well, I wish I could take credit for it, but it is all old Dostoevsky. I stole it all from Dostoevsky. Yellow is color of despair it seems to me. So, yes it is a conscious thing. Dostoevsky uses it with the greatest effectiveness in Crime and Punishment. He makes a stronger linkage between despair and guilt than I do because he, like Kierkegaard, thinks that the two concepts are inextricable. I don't think they are inextricable. I think we can have guilt without despair and despair without guilt. They don't because they are such profoundly Christian thinkers and I'm not a Christian thinker. I think if you are a writer and you want to immediately grab hold of your reader's repressed consciousness, of her or his own terror and despair of suffering and the meaninglessness of life and the consciousness of their own failure and the inevitability of death, all you have to do: Yellow. Just bring in yellow and you've got it just like that.
GIGANTIC: Do you think philosophical writing has influenced your fiction stylistically at all?
CM: Personally, I think that all the great philosophers have always, without exception, been great writers. I know that many are accused of not being great writers, but I think this is totally false. I think it is just a misunderstanding of a particular genre, of philosophy. If you can think of literature as a genre, it has all these different forms; it is the same way in philosophy. There are all these different forms of writing. And when it is being done by a master it has exactly the same power as when it is being done by a master novelist or a master poet.
GIGANTIC: And my understanding is that your central philosophers are Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. For me, those have to be two of the most poetic philosophers.
CM: Right. Plato, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Those are the three. I mean, I wouldn't want to give a line-up of philosophy's greatest minds…
GIGANTIC: No, go for it!
CM: [laughs] But I think that of the most profoundly creative minds that philosophy has offered us, three of them must be Plato, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. And all three of them have made a point of exploring almost every different kind of writing within their own literature.
GIGANTIC: Kierkegaard even wrote novels.
CM: Yeah, Kierkegaard has novels and Nietzsche has poems and songs in the middle of his work. And Plato explores every kind of literary genre that existed in the day in the dialogues.
GIGANTIC: Going back to the lack of understanding of the poetics of philosophy, something a philosophy professor once said to me, in regards to the divide between analytic and continental philosophy, is that analytic philosophy aims to be science in some sense while continental philosophy aims to be art. It seems that in North America the analytic branch of philosophy has long been dominant. Do you think that is part of the reason there is misunderstanding about philosophical writing here?
CM: Well, I do think that is right. There is an interesting intellectual history to the analytic/continental divide that comes out of an argument that really took place between two great writing partners: Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead. Whitehead was one of these neo-Hegelians and Russell was Russell. He was the guy who more or less created analytic philosophy in the way as we understand it. Russell's model was a sort of scientific/mathematical model that goes back to the way Hume understood philosophy. Hume was Russell's great hero. Whitehead understood philosophy as centrally concerned at the end of the day with questions about the meaning of life and once you are concerned about the meaning of life inevitably you realize, like Heidegger did, that the most intimate way of approaching these sorts of incredibly difficult issues is through poetry and literature. That is poetry and literature's job.
I was just reading about a new book about Hegel by Beatrice Longuenesse who is this wonderful Continental philosopher at NYU, terrific Kant scholar. She argues what my own mentor Robert Solomon argued, that we should understand the Phenomenology of Spirit as a bildungsroman. We should understand it basically as a novel as much as a philosophical text despite the fact that without Phenomenology of Spirit we don't have Marx, we don't have sort of the entire tradition of 20th century continental philosophy. All of it goes back to that one book that is a very weird book. It is philosophy, yeah, but it is poetry.
GIGANTIC: So would you consider these kinds of literary techniques to be essential to the philosophical project?
CM: I mean, if you are not open to the idea of understanding a text in terms of its opportunities for creative development, the ways in which it is exploring new territory, instead of merely trying to define terms, like the so-called analytic method, then there is no way to make sense of it, you know?
GIGANTIC: I've also heard it said—and you've probably heard this before—that there is a way that you can be taught analytic philosophy in a university, but you can teach someone to be an analytic philosopher in a way you can't teach someone to be the next Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, to think and write in a new way.
CM: Absolutely. You can be taught to write the kind of academic article that is popular in American philosophy today. It is not even that difficult to teach someone. But as you say you can't… Well you've just been through it [in an MFA program], how the hell do you teach somebody to write a 150 page novel? It is a very tricky thing to do. If that novel isn't already inside them somewhere. I think you can teach them how not to write it, definitely. And you can sort of pour water on that little seed that is hiding there in all that dirt of the id, but you aren't going to be able to do much more than that, I think. I've never been through a writing program, but I can imagine most of the work is teaching somebody how not to, I don't know…
GIGANTIC: Not to mess it up?
CM: Yeah, basically. I don't want to keep using this sort of trite sounding metaphor but the best thing you can do is sort of like teach them how to clear the ground, how to sort of get the soil tilled or something. How not to mess it up, exactly. Because there is only one person who can make that sucker grow. It is a lonely, difficult process.
GIGANTIC: Speaking of philosophy and novels, how does your own philosophical work influence your fiction writing?
CM: The battle for me in How to Sell was always trying to tone down the philosophy because when the philosophy comes up that's when I feel like it interferes with the pace and the interest and maybe the depth that you are trying to achieve in your fiction. I had a whole set of philosophical concerns that I specifically wanted to explore that come out of my work in philosophy. I basically work on three questions. One question is, what is the nature of self-deception, how does it work? Second question is, what is the nature of deception between people and how does that work. I have a theory—it wouldn't sound controversial to a non-philosopher I don't think, but amongst philosophers it is very controversial—that deception between persons and self-deception are ultimately so intimately connected with one another that you can't really talk about one sensibly without talking about the other. That is my main agenda in philosophy, trying to push that through. And this is connected to my third concern which is, is the project of self-knowledge a meaningful one? Does this project of self-knowledge make any sense? It is a really old western tradition, we get it from the Oracle of Delphi:gnothi seuton (know thyself), nosce te ipsum in the Latin. For the ancients it is a moral imperative, it isn't just something about self-transformation or something, to fulfill the ethical project that is to say not just my duty to myself but my duty to you as well. My duty to society is to know myself.
GIGANTIC: I'm not going to ask you what is "true" in the novel, but your novel clearly draws on your life experiences. Bobby Clark, your narrator in How to Sell, also leaves high school in Canada to sell jewelry with his brother in Texas, and so on. How does that relate to what we were talking about before in terms of self-deception and self-knowledge. Do you see fiction as a tool for self-exploration?
CM: For me that was the driving force. For me these philosophical questions are most interesting and they have the most traction, in terms of my attempts to write and in terms of my attempts to think about philosophy and in terms of my attempts to slowly become a real person...
GIGANTIC: It is a painful process.
CM: It is, isn't it? Those are all tied together with the question of confession and the question of writing and how one tries to understand oneself through telling the story that is intimately important to you. So yes, that is what I was saying when I was trying to keep the philosophy down. I think part of the attempt and the solution of these things has to do with the confessional tradition and with a sincere attempt to explore your own messy psychological terrain in your writing. I'm not saying people can only do this by writing. I think they can do it in friendship and I think in the Christian tradition it's not just that one has to do it with a father-confessor. Part of the point of God in the protestant tradition is your going to understand yourself through the complete relationship between yourself and this other who can wholly understand you in ways maybe you can't understand yourself. But it's all part of this same idea of somehow or other you're going to achieve these different possibilities of achievement in the project of confession.
GIGANTIC: It is interesting that you talk about trying to remove the overt philosophy from the book, because while there is definitely a philosophical sense pulsing through the background of How to Sell, and I think of it as a philosophical novel in that way, the philosophy never felt overt. It is not like if I said a philosophy professor wrote this novel and you might think, Oh, it must have these Borgesian metafictional conceits or some kind of overt philosophical ruminations by the characters. But that is not what's going on here.
CM: Well hopefully not. That's certainly not what I was trying to do. Those kinds of metafictional questions, the relationship between philosophy and literature, are for me personally as a writer and as a philosopher less interesting than the existential ones. Let me put it this way: one reason that some people think that The Stranger succeeds in a way that The Plague doesn't—this is the view that lots of Camus scholars and also many literary people hold—is that while The Stranger is just as philosophically serious, it is sort of like the philosophy is the subconscious of the conscious mind of the text whereas in The Plague the philosophy is sort of the super ego of the conscious mind of the text. The philosophy is always telling the text what to do, whereas in The Stranger the philosophy is just forcing itself up wherever it has to appear. One day I'd love it if I could write a novel like The Plague, I think The Plague is a far greater novel in my own opinion. But certainly the model I was operating on for How to Sell was The Stranger model.
And in none of these cases are the concerns, as you say, metatextual concerns. I think that for our generation, your and my generation, one of the challenges is to move beyond or to create our own alternative to the kind of Barth, Pynchon, David Foster Wallace tradition which is so concerned with these philosophical, linguistic and metatextual issues.
GIGANTIC: I think that was something David Foster Wallace was really trying to move beyond, though I'm not sure if he succeeded entirely. Although I think his work is still great and essential.
CM: Oh, I think so too. I remember in my early 20s when I first thought that the greatest thing one could be in life would be a novelist. Then Infinite Jest came out and I thought, "Okay, yes it would be the greatest thing to be in life but it is not something I can ever be." [laughs] "Fuck this bastard who can write this book that I can never write. So why am I entertaining these idiotic dreams?"
GIGANTIC: But we can probably place Wallace more in that Barth/Pynchon tradition. Wallace also had that great essay on irony that delved into these issues, which seemed to mirror his struggles with it.
CM: He is very much in that tradition. I agree with you. There are scenes in Infinite Jest, like the scene when the two brothers are on the campus and it's around maybe page 120 or so…
GIGANTIC: [laughs] You have all those pages memorized?
CM: [laughs] They are walking through the woods together talking and one senses that the other needs time to himself. He lets the other kind of wander ahead. It is like a scene from Flaubert. James Wood has a famous essay where he coins the term hysterical realism and he talks about David Foster Wallace, amongst others, and he is talking about these metafictional concerns. This scene in Infinite Jest is a nice refutation of James Wood's point. It is like high Flaubert, high pure realism at its finest. Wallace was not just doing metafictional things.
GIGANTIC: I took a class with James Wood and he was a fantastic teacher. But I was a little disappointed with that essay in regards to Wallace who I felt didn't really fit into Woods's argument as well as he wanted him to. Woods mentions Wallace in the beginning, but then he is kind of ignored in the body of the essay, while Woods quotes extensively from Zadie Smith and Salmon Rushdie… He didn't go far enough to convince me.
CM: No, I agree with you. I think David Foster Wallace was moving beyond it too.
I do think Wallace was very concerned, for a whole host of reasons, with these question that inevitably one winds up calling existential questions. I do think it is part of our project. We have all this Borgesian baggage on our backs and we have to find ways of making new things while recognizing that now this is part of our tradition. It's not like we want to go back to something before that.
GIGANTIC: One thing I was thinking about in regards to this question, and while reading your work in general, was Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. Could Nietzsche's ideas on art and tragedy play into this question? And of course they are somewhat specific to the kind of combination of music and narrative in Greek tragedy that is not going on in a novel since there is no music. But it seems like the philosophy in your novel operates to tear away at some kind of underlying truth if not of the world than of the self in some sense.
CM: Yes, of course The Birth of Tragedy is one of my favorite books.
GIGANTIC: I never know how that is regarded amongst Nietzsche scholars, but it is one of his texts I find myself frequently thinking about. Especially the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy.
CM: It is a funny book amongst Nietzsche scholars. There are those of us who love it and there are those of us who don't. And it is a funny book too because of his relationship with Wagner at that point and he idolized Wagner so much. Then the Nietzsche/Wagner/Hitler connection. For Nietzsche's sake, that was so unjust.
GIGANTIC: For all our sakes really. It created such an easy dismissal of him.
CM: Yes, it was this horrible, horrible thing that happened to Nietzsche as a world historical figure. But to speak wholly within the terms of the novel for just a second, I think that this is part of Bobby's problem. This Apollonian/Dionysian problem. He wants and he believes that there can be this Apollonian structure and order and harmony to life. He desperately believes it. You might notice that anytime he mentions a book he also tries to mention the opposite of the book. One time he is reading Journey to the End of the Night but at the very same time he is reading these books about spiritual transformation. He wants to believe in order but he is irresistibly drawn to this Dionysian component of life. As you say, you put it better than I will, of tearing things apart, tearing everything down, including the dissolution of the self and drugs and sex. Even attacking very basic moral notions like truthfulness, the most basic notion that we have. In some ways the book is a defense of Plato's idea that the true and the good and the beautiful are all one. This is his ultimate thesis, and it is a defense in so far as Bobby tries to pull all these things apart: the true and the good and the beautiful. What happens is he winds up, well…
GIGANTIC: Not to give away the ending…
CM: [laughs] Not to give away the ending. He realizes that in so far as he has been having beauty in his life, it has been the wrong kind of beauty. In so far as he's been in pursuit of goodness he hasn't had any idea what goodness was. I mean while believing in the truth, at some level trying to be as honest a narrator as he can be, Bobby does nothing throughout the book except tell lie after lie after lie after lie.
As a matter of fact, when I wrote my dissertation, it was called "Nietzsche on Deception." It was an exploration of what Nietzsche has to say about lying and self-deception. As part of that project I started to put together a catalogue of all the different kinds of lies that philosophers have identified. So I have this catalogue of about twenty kinds of lies, and I tried to incorporate all of them into the book. So every time Bobby lies, every time an opportunity to lie presents itself, I tried to use a different one of these to make sure that I got them all in there. If the book has anything to say about philosophy in the more pedantic sense, it has something to say about the philosophy of deception. What is a lie? How does it operate? When I tell you a lie how much are you participating in the lie that I'm telling you?
GIGANTIC: Maybe Nietzsche's concepts of the Apollonian and the Dionysian are a good metaphor for the synthesis that fiction writers should aim for now, to find new modes?
CM: Yes, I think that might be right. Because in many ways the metalinguistic/metaphilosophical/metafictional project that so many of our favorite writers were engaged by was a very Apollonian project. My favorites, to speak for myself, Thomas Pynchon and Donald Barthelme were very engaged in that. It is a question of the importance of structure and order. How do we begin to think about the importance of structure and order explicitly while keeping a story or novel engaging and interesting, while dealing with those kinds of philosophical questions. It is like Apollonian taken to another level. But I do think it starts to remove itself and this is its risk. I'm not going to name any names but there are writers that we both know whose work might be indicted on the grounds that they become overly obsessed with this question and it winds up limiting them or, at least, very much limiting their audience. Because it neglects this other hugely important role of writing and area of human experience, the Dionysian: this need to break it down.
GIGANTIC: You just gave some examples of authors who might epitomize the Apollonian instinct in fiction: Pynchon and Barthelme. Who do you think would embody the Dionysian?
CM: I'm trying to think of a living writer who would be a good example. An obvious example, of course, is Denis Johnson with Jesus' Son. In many ways Johnson is making a return to the Dionysian side. He has plenty of concerns with structure, and part of what is exciting about Jesus' Son is the ways in which he manages to reinvent structure for us in the short story.
GIGANTIC: Especially with his use of time.
CM: Yes, especially with time. But his concerns with structure are artistic rather than philosophical, I guess I would say. He is concerned with using structure, rather than thinking about structure. It is not a meta-structural kind of a project, how does philosophy and literature intersect kind of project. His real themes are Dionysian themes. That is what he is concerned with. I also think Barry Hannah is a little bit this way. He is much more concerned with the Dionysian, even in the way he writes, even in his word choice, his particular sentences, his juxtapositions. I think he is trying, not to shock you in the sense of cheap shock, but shock you in the existential way. Wake you up and punch you in the nose kind of way. And then in the grand tradition the two greats, for me, two of the greatest writers of the last 150 years are Céline and Hamsun. Hamsun in Hunger, very explicitly in Pan but much more effectively in Hunger, and then Céline in Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan. Those are the great explorations of the Dionysian. Not just in terms of theme and psychology, but form as well. And as much as I adore Pynchon and Barthelme, if I had to pick then I would pick Céline and Hamsun at the end of the day. And also Dostoevsky.
GIGANTIC: Tell me if you disagree with me or not, but one thing I've always felt is missing—not necessarily the authors you named but with that tradition in general, which I do find perhaps more powerful—is the level of play and joy that is prevalent in people like Barthelme or Coover. I don't see that translated into the other side as much, the Dionysian writers, although it seems it could be.
CM: I see what you are saying about play and joy. I think that's right. I mean here is how Kierkegaard dealt with this question we are concerned with. Kierkegaard thought that in philosophy, in matters of the spirit and in literature we could ultimately make a divide between the ironic and the comic. He thought that writers such as Barthelme and Coover ultimately would be classed as writers of irony, writers whose concern at the end of the day is to show, in your terms, the joyfulness of play. Comic writers on the other hand for Kierkegaard were those writers who at the end of the day were concerned really with the question of despair and how we reconcile ourselves to despair and suffering. So for him, on someone like Cervantes say, he is never ironical but always comic.
GIGANTIC: Not quite the sense a layman might use "comic."
CM: No, no. Comic in the grand sense of the word comic. In the Greek sense of the word, with tragedy and comedy being two sides of the same coin. I love Coover. And Barthelme was one of my great emancipators. When I read Donald Barthelme for the very first time when I was eighteen, I read "A Shower of Gold" and thought, well that was too easy, anybody could do that. I actually thought that, as stupid as I was. And then when I read it again about five years later I thought this was perhaps the most perfect story I've ever read. And of course it is a classic existential text even as it makes fun of existentialism. He makes every cheap jibe at the existential literature that he can. It is just brilliant, like Woody Allen except so much better.
GIGANTIC: Yes, Barthelme was the exact same for me, an emancipator. Someone who, when I read him, exploded my entire sense of what a story had to be.
CM: But Kierkegaard would say, I know, about Barthelme and Coover both, that at the end of the day they leave you in the position of the nihilist. They leave you with the fact that all you can hope for is a kind of, as you say, joy and play. And at the end of the day like the mother says in the movie Drugstore Cowboy, when Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch go to Matt's mom's housebecause they are broke and out of luck and they need some clothes and Kelly Lynch's character says to Matt Dillon's mother, "Why do you hate us so?" and Matt Dillon's mom says, "It's not that I hate you, I pity you, because all you want to do is run and play" and she says "Don't you understand that you can't run and play all your life?" And I think that is what Kierkegaard would say to Coover and Barthelme, "Don't you understand that you can't run and play all your life that there is this whole other domain of existence; despair, suffering and the joy of playfulness isn't enough?"
GIGANTIC: Well, we have talked in a sort of Apollonian sense about your work, the philosophical goals you had, so maybe we should talk a little about the language you use, the more Dionysian side.
CM: I'd love to talk about the language! God bless you. I just said to my editor Lorin Stein the other day that the most frustrating things about the reviews we've had so far is that nobody has talked about the language. Because the thing I worked harder on than anything else was the language.
GIGANTIC: One of the things I love about your work, and How to Sell in particular, is that you have a minimalist style, but you punctuate it with powerful metaphors, paced out in a surprising way. My favorite one is when Bobby Clark is on the airplane to Dallas for the first time and there is an old woman sitting next to him and you say, "The lipstick was smeared from drinking and it looked like a live animal might jump out of that red hole and bite me on the cheek." Is that a sort of project in your writing, points of puncturing?
CM: I think puncturing at certain points is a nice way of putting it. Well, so for example you are right, obviously, that I am kind of raised in this minimalist tradition because I've been so much instructed by Diane Williams who was instructed by Gordon Lish. And one of my favorite writers, I know it isn't a popular thing to say right now, is and will always be Raymond Carver and he had an enormous influence on me.
GIGANTIC: Yeah, I don't know why so many people try to deny him now.
CM: I don't know. He has suddenly become "uncool."
GIGANTIC: He has that problem that certain famous bands do, where they spawn whole genres of crappy copy-cats that lack the original's power. And then the original gets judged by those followers instead of their own work.
CM: Right, so now you are not allowed to like Nirvana anymore just because there have been so many cheap copy-cats.
GIGANTIC: You can't like Nirvana because of Limp Bizkit or something.
CM: I do think you are exactly right, that's the problem. One thing I tried to do, which I thought was obvious, though some people managed not to notice who will again remain nameless, but Diane Williams noticed immediately. She said one of the best things is the way you will do these passages of straight minimalism and then interrupt them with scenes of pure lyricism. I of course made a point of doing this right at the beginning, there is a scene of very straight minimalism of Bobby stealing his mother's ring then going to the pawn shop and selling it. Just bare bones Carver-esque minimalism—let's keep the pace up as fast as possible, then boom it cuts immediately to this little scene of him walking up to Mount Royal and the snow, this purely lyrical scene, the contrary of that tradition, with the snow drifting down through the lamplight and him looking into the windows of the houses and this very explicit metaphor of the lamps and houses looking like golden jewels. And it goes back and forth like that all through the novel.
GIGANTIC: And it is even a collision of sorts of the two styles, in a way that adds extra power?
CM: Hopefully so. That was my idea. Yeah, again you put it better than I did. The collision between those very opposed styles. There is nothing the lyrical writer hates more than the kind of minimalist dialogue-driven writing and Carver would have just hated those lyrical scenes. I'm sure Lish would have said, "Cut that crap out, you can't have that in there." But that was the point.
GIGANTIC: And that's part of the project of moving forward for young writers? Finding a way to combine these different forces?
CM: Of us trying to be—I'm too old to be able to claim the name of the young writer, but if you'll let me just claim the name with you for a minute of being young writers together—of people just getting started on the project of being writers—for me I feel that that's our mission. We have to find ways of making it new.