Why are you a writer?

It happened by accident. I grew up in an ungrammatical family. There weren’t many books in the house, mostly just the Lansing State Journal.

 

So what happened?

Well, I was an athlete in high school, an all-state distance runner. I loved running. It made me feel so good and it felt good to be good at something.

 

I don’t see the connection.

Running was what I was good at, but then I broke my foot and then a car hit me and I broke my arm in two places and then I had a hernia. That didn’t all happen at once. It was a series of events. But when I tried to come back, to be a runner again because that was pretty much my whole identity, I developed tendonitis so bad that my leg wouldn’t bend. So I had a lot of down time. I spent a lot of time in bed trying to heal and I started reading a lot. I discovered that I loved books, but I didn’t try to write anything back then. I was a reader. I still read more than I write.

 

This reminds me a little of Eudora Welty’s story of how she became a writer—but injury instead of illness.

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when you’re lying in bed all broken in different places. The books were a kind of comfort.

 

I feel a little like that’s starting to happen right now.

I have always liked women with glasses.

 

What?

Glasses=reading=hot.

 

I get it—reading is sexy.

You should see the way my wife wears glasses.

 

Let’s maybe bring this back to writing?

For me, writing comes out of a similar instinct as running. It does the same thing for me that running used to. It’s something that makes me feel good, feel alive, feel like I’m doing something. I use the same discipline with writing that I did with running—every day, sometimes twice a day. I feel funny, odd, off, if I don’t do it. And it is an issue of identity. It took me three books to think of myself as a writer. Not until I published Dear Everybody did I describe myself as a writer, a novelist. I always used to tell people I was an editor, which I was, or that I rewrote college textbooks, which I did.

 

I didn’t think that was what you were going to say.

Books are a comfort, the ones I read and the ones I write.

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MICHAEL KIMBALL’s third novel, DEAR EVERYBODY, is now in paperback in the US, UK, and Canada. The Believer calls it “a curatorial masterpiece.” Time Out New York calls the writing “stunning.” And the Los Angeles Times says the book is “funny and warm and sad and heartbreaking.” His first two novels are THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY (2000) and HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS (2005). All three of his novels have been translated (or are being translated) into many languages. His work has been on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vice, as well as The Guardian, Prairie Schooner, Post Road, Open City, Unsaid, and New York Tyrant. He is also responsible for the collaborative project Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)—and two documentary films (with Luca Dipierro), I WILL SMASH YOU (2009) and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES (2010).

One response to “Michael Kimball: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. Like you, I realized a little later than most I loved books. Except for Dr. Seuss as a kid, I didn’t read a book from cover to cover until I was 19-years-old. I did read the dictionary for whatever reason. Kept it underneath my bed and read it before bed. I loved words. Lord of the Flies in high-school was the closest I had ever come before that. Though I really enjoyed the book I still only finished 2/3 of it…. until about 3 months ago when I bought it and read it in full for the first time.

    Now, I love books as much as I did chocolate candy growing up. I guess some of us are slower in realizing it.

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