Do you get the feeling that this self-interview is actually more like a self-conscious-interview?

Yes.  I have to tell you, and by you I mean me, that this just feels odd.  I’ve read the other ones on the site, and some of them are very serious, while others are very much tongue-firmly-in-cheek.  I’m glad to see other writers have come before me, blazed the trail so I can see how it’s done, but I’m sorry (which means I’m apologizing to myself) – I just can’t shake the weirdness of this single point for both question and answer.


But don’t you go through this very act while you write, asking yourself questions and answering them?  Talking to yourself, even now, as you type this question.  It’s how your stories get written.

That’s correct, but you know, it’s sort of private.  In fact, it’s very private.  What happens in the writing room is like what happens in Vegas – it stays there.  I don’t want people peering into this process.  It’s worse than being naked – it’s brain-naked.  I don’t believe there’s a greater breach of privacy than to broadcast the pathways of a person’s thoughts, because there’s no limit to what can be imagined.  The body is just a body; take off the clothes and scamper about, and all people will see is what their eyes will take in.  But to open up a mind, to see how it’s working?  You know as well as I do that it’s a dangerous place to be, not only in what one can make up but the sheer mass of the past.  All those volumes of disappointments and regrets and sadness and death, barely bookended by a few slivers of pleasures and triumphs…


Man, you’re depressing.

Human existence as a whole is insignificant, which means my life occupies perhaps one-one-billionth-of-a-billionth significance (and that’s no doubt an overestimate).  There’s no meaning to anything we do.  Whether we cure cancer or end up blowing up the planet, none of it matters in the long run.


Okay, thanks, I get it.  So why don’t you make this self-interview less personal, then.  Just stick with the facts.  How your first novel got written, why you wrote it in the first place, your favorite writers, that sort of stuff.

All of that can be gotten from my website and a few searches on Google.  Which reminds me, have you noticed there’s no mystery anymore to anything?  It wasn’t that long ago that there was no Google or Wikipedia, and if you wanted to know why your mother warned you not to leave a fan running through the night, well, you might have never known the answer.  Now you do, and because we are better informed than we have ever been in the history of mankind, we have never been more boring.  Thanks to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, we now know what our friends are eating for lunch or what they purchased at the supermarket.  Even the quotidian has moved into the realm of the public, and this distresses me.


Are you sure you’re not Andy Rooney?

I guess I’m just getting older, yearning for a simpler time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no technophobe – I’ve been tethered to a computer since 1983, and in my house, the CPU outnumbers the humans seven to two.  I have both DSL and cable broadband connections coming in, load balanced by a twin-WAN router, connected to a pair of gigabit switches and a wireless-n access point.


Maybe you’re the problem.  If you weren’t so wired, perhaps you could smell the flowers, so to speak.

I have no doubt that I am the problem.  I’ve always been the problem, but the problem with this problem is that it’s a problem without a viable solution.  So I do the best I can, which is to live somebody else’s life, and the closest I can get to accomplishing this impossible feat is to dive into my fiction.


So you write to avoid experiencing your own life.

That sounds awfully pretentious and artsy, not to mention incorrect.  I may be stepping into a character as I write a story or a novel, but it’s not like I can escape myself.  I’m still me, and I work things out in my fiction.  It’s never a direct approach.  I never say, “Boy, that guy I ran into at Starbucks really pissed me off.  I’m going to write about that.”  It’s stuff buried in the subconscious.  If things are clicking, I don’t even know I’m dealing with an emotional or psychological issue until I’m done with the piece.

I just re-read that last paragraph, and you know what?  It still sounds pretentious and artsy.  Sorry.

By the way, I’d like to clarify that my life is not as tortured as I’m making it out to be, not even close.  It’s comfortable and often quite happy.  But when I start to examine my reason for being, misery becomes my air, and I breathe it deep.  I’ve never kept a diary for this reason, because writing about myself with such frankness is torture.


Which is what this self-interview has been.

I think we’re done.

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SUNG J. WOO is a writer living in New Jersey. Some of his short stories and essays have appeared in McSweeney's, KoreAm Journal, and The New York Times. His debut novel, Everything Asian (April 2009), has been praised by the Christian Science Monitor and received a starred review from Kirkus.

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