We all dream dreams of unity, of purity; we all dream that there's an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves.
I'm a product of a fragmented world.
The thing is, you try your best, and what else you got? You try your best, really, that's all you can do. And for me, my best happens really so rarely.
I read a book a week, man. And I don't have a great memory, but I have a good memory about what I read.
You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.
I'm of African descent and my sister looks completely black, but I didn't look black. I was the super-nerdy kid who was also willing to fight.
Even I thought I would be a writer who put something out every year. But that's not how it worked out.
My novel, which I had started with such hope shortly after publishing my first book of stories, wouldn't budge past the 75-page mark. Nothing I wrote past page 75 made any kind of sense. Nothing. Which would have been fine if the first 75 pages hadn't been pretty damn cool.
I'm still trying to figure out how to write about cancer and my family's experience with it. If I had been able to write 'The Pura Principle' back in those days, I'm positive it would have had no humor in it. Which means the story would have been false.
I don't think I could have tackled 'The Pura Principle' until now. It takes me about twenty years to come to term with any difficult period in my life, to get enough of a grasp on it to fictionalize it.
Stories are hard. I have friends who knock out stories on a weekly or monthly basis, like they're running on medicinal-strength Updike. But for me a story is as daunting a prospect as a novel.
It took me 11 years to struggle through one dumb book, and every day you just want to give up. But you don't find out you're an artist because you do something really well.
I'm sure I'm one of those undiagnosed people with social anxiety.
I always had a sense that I would fall in love with Tokyo. In retrospect I guess it's not that surprising. I was of the generation that had grown up in the '80s when Japan was ascendant (born aloft by a bubble whose burst crippled its economy for decades), and I'd fed on a steady diet of anime and samurai films.
Let me tell you, if I could write one-tenth as fast as some of my friends, I'd be made. I'd be it. But instead I happen to be, in the tree of life of writers, down at the bottom, with the hematodes.
We have a whole bunch of young people and a whole bunch of families. Are we going to disrupt these families and tear them apart? Or are we going think, like, listen - these people are here. We've got to deal with this reality. We've got to extend the franchise.
When I enter that higher-order space that's required to write, I'm a better human. For whatever my writing is, wherever it's ranked, it definitely is the one place that I get to be beautiful.
I find infidelity interesting because it's so revelatory about people. It's this really silent thing. Everyone acknowledges it as a general practice, but nobody likes to go beyond that, to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Long before the idea of multiculturalism, in public people could say almost anything to you and get away with it.
I think 90% of my ideas evaporate because I have a terrible memory and because I seem to be committed to not scribble anything down. As soon as I write it down, my mind rejects it.
When I think about my own relationships to the women that I really loved, it feels like that love, even after we've broken up and we're no longer speaking, that love never goes away. No one told me that.
I wrote my first sucio story, as I call them, in 1997. This was always my 'cheater's book,' my book about sucios desgraciados. My plan was to write a book about how people deal with love and loss.
John Carter was also one of our first recognizable superhumans and there is little doubt that his extraordinary physical feats inspired Superman's creators. Remember: before Superman could fly or turn back time, he was nothing less than an earthbound crime-fighting John Carter in tights.
I mean, look, we're living in a country where you can't have a non-denominational response. If you're slightly critical of either party, all of the partisans jump on you like you're a lunatic.
I do think that we all draw limits and I feel like part of the work of an artist is it shouldn't be fun. This shouldn't be comfortable. I'm not looking to make people feel unsafe, but I am looking to make people feel uncomfortable.
I do think that books are invaluable as a reservoir of what we call the human space. And this is why I think that, even if they're threatened, the work that they do has an incalculable merit.
We hide so well. This is the bottom line: how hidden is male subjectivity? Name five books where male subjectivity is produced in an honest way.
For my first three books the setting (or place if you will) has always been a given - N.J. and the Dominican Republic and some N.Y.C. - so from one perspective you could say that the place in my work always comes first.
It's extraordinary how many people read a book that's new and weird and befriend it.
Students teach all sorts of things but most importantly they make explicit the courage that it takes to be a learner, the courage it takes to open yourself to the transformative power of real learning and that courage I am exposed to almost every day at MIT and that I'm deeply grateful for.
I think the average guy thinks they're pro-woman, just because they think they're a nice guy and someone has told them that they're awesome. But the truth is far from it.
As expected: she, the daughter of the Fall, recipient of its heaviest radiation, loved atomically.
I'm like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good.
We get these lives for free. I didn't do anything to get this life, and no matter what the hardships are, it is free and, in a way, it's an extraordinary bargain.
The idea that America has cornered the market on anti-immigration is ridiculous. It's a global phenomenon.
In fact, looking at the darkest sides of the United States has only made me appreciate the things that we do right, the things that we do beautifully. We are, for all of our mistakes and all of our crimes, a remarkable place.
The anti-immigrant logic has basically saturated our world. I'm staying, and I'm fighting.
In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.
There's nothing more true in being a child of a diaspora, a child of immigrants. We're completely new to our parents. We're not something they can ever understand. And it's not as if we are ever going to be accepted. We're accepted as long as we conform to what we are expected to be, and I'm sure that's not any different for anyone else.
Sometimes you just have to try, even if you know it won't work.