Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Mark Wisniewski talks about his brilliant new novel WATCH ME GO, and so much more
With a stellar quote from Salman Rushdie himself, Watch Me Go, by Mark Wisniewski, is as tense as it is disturbing. His other works include Show Up, Look Good, and Confessions of a Polish used Car Salesman. He's also the author of the collection of short stories, All Weekend With the Lights On. (Great titles, right?) I'm thrilled to have Mark here. Thank you, Mark.
What sparked the writing of Watch Me Go? What idea was haunting you that pushed you forwards?
The notion that someone like Deesh could simply be trying to survive economically--then become imprisoned and hated because his friendships and efforts to merely earn rent backfired--struck me as the underpinning of a potentially tense, suspenseful, and even horror-laden novel. Back when I was in academia, I experienced a chain of events along those lines. A situation like that can, despite your best intentions, keep getting worse, and the number of wise choices available to you keeps diminishing while the stress keeps building. And at some point you know you're in for hell yet you still hope--but trying to fight back or leave simply makes matters worse. In Deesh's case, he is black, and some people out there will always hate him because he's black, and that's an imprisonment he'll never escape--and that horrifies me.
The novel is just gorgeously written, and is being called a literary crime novel--which I love, because it elevates the genre, or perhaps, creates a brand new one. Can you talk about this?
Watch Me Go took twenty-five years to write and publish, so there were countless drafts and revisions, so in theory--mathematically speaking--it should be five times as polished as a novel that took five years? And yes, that math does assume an oversimplification of how writing works, but there's also a certain logic there, no? Anyway Deesh's and Jan's diction is fairly off-the-street, which some readers would call "anti-literary"--so I'm glad you found some beauty there--that is, in the way they talk.
So much of Watch Me Go is about forgiveness, fate, race and justice. I wonder if you can talk a bit about this, as well.
I didn't want only to show the horrors of racial and economic injustice. Certainly I wanted to show those horrors--because I think people should quit denying that America's suffered significant backsliding when it comes to race and justice. But I also wanted to show that maybe there's something you and I could do to fight those horrors today. In my mind, WMG says we could do what Jan and Deesh (the two narrators) did: listen well, and then, when someone is listening to us, tell our truths as candidly and relevantly as possible.
What kind of writer are you? Do you have rituals? Do you have to drink ten gallons of coffee or have music playing? Do you outline?
I'm a binge-writer. It's either up all night writing or off at the racetrack playing. And writing requires that I drink much coffee. And I play music, often loudly. Often the same song or CD over and over. And yes I do outline, am a big believer in outlines, but not necessarily from the very beginning. At the beginning, particularly when the narration's in the first person, I write freely to help myself hear a narrative voice.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
My next novel. Because for a while there, it was just something Penguin Putnam wanted me to do--but now it's one of those stories in me I need to get out.
What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
Who's my long shot in today's 9th at Aqueduct?