Darin Strauss

Darin Strauss
Darin Strauss
  • Born: March 1, 1970
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Writer

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Darin Strauss is a best-selling American writer whose work has earned a number of awards, including, among numerous others, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Strauss's most recent book is Half a Life, which won the 2011 NBCC Award for memoir/autobiography.

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A good writer knows that if her style and perceptions are really cooking, she can bring anything off. It's okay, of course, for novelists to depict bland, average families living bland, average lives in bland, average towns. But it isn't okay when those novelists don't outshine their bland, average subjects.
A subplot is a distinguishing characteristic of the novel; the short story, for example, does not need subplots.
A tragedy's first act is crowded with supporting players, policeman scribbling in pads and making radio calls, witnesses crimping their faces, EMS guys folding equipment.
After a life deprived of everything from romantic love to the choice of when to wake up in the morning, after 29 years without the ability to have a career or even to be alone at toilet, the Bijani sisters are not symbols but women who have had to live a shared life of constant, quotidian sacrifice. Life ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Morning
All writers have their own pet commandments.
Characters stretching their legs in some calm haven generally don't make for interesting protagonists.
Conjoined twins are identical siblings who develop one placenta out of a single fertilised ovum. No cases of conjoined triplets or quadruplets have been documented.
Constant rejection. No security. Career paths being dictated by freelance reviewers. And of course, the terror of the writing desk, of the blank page. Why is it so hard for our non-writer friends to understand this - that it's a job?
Even the best novels have their share of stinker lines.
Faith is a private issue. At least, I consider it to be one. Religion & God
For the fiction students I teach, one of the most common mistakes is to start in the wrong place. Often the actual story doesn't begin until about a third of the way into their narratives. They start off instead with excessive scene-setting, metaphysical speculation, introducing nonessential dramatis personae, throat-clearing, etc.
I consider myself a Jewish writer - even if my characters frequently are not Jewish - in the same way, I guess, that I consider myself a Jewish man, even though I don't often attend shul.
I delivered Chinese food on Long island, which is pretty depressing. I lived with my parents and did that for six months. I got a job a few towns over from mine so I wouldn't have to see people from my high school. Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
I got a job writing for a financial technology newsletter in Manhattan. I didn't even understand what I was writing about. The newsletter had, like, 2,000 subscribers, and it was $700 a year for a subscription. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I guess when you write a personal story, people feel compelled to share their own stories.
I have twin six-year-old boys. Have no mojo. The closest thing to a mojo I have is five minutes of peace. War & Peace
I spent three and a half years writing the novel 'Chang & Eng,' about the conjoined brothers for whom the term 'Siamese twins' was contrived, and when I think of these afflicted people, my only emotion is one of profound sympathy. Sympathy
I suppose that, for most of us, the fascination of conjoined twins is that such people can serve as symbols.
I think it's a wonderful fact about Judaism - at least about the approach to Judaism I most relate to: There are no universal answers. We don't have it all figured out. God is unknowable. Religion & God
I thought, 'I'll come back to New York. I worked for the 'Aspen Times' when I lived in Aspen. I'll work for the 'New York Times' when I live in New York.' It didn't work out that way. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I went to Aspen right after school and got a freelance gig writing articles for the 'Aspen Times.' I was their nightlife correspondent. They paid me fifty bucks an article.
If the memoirist is borrowing narrative techniques from fiction, shouldn't the novelist borrow a few tricks from successful non-fiction?
If you're guilty of something, you can focus on that, but if something terrible happens, and you can't imagine how you could have changed it, that's very difficult for the mind. In some ways, it's more difficult not to be at fault because it's a subtler thing.
I'm no fan of jam bands. You can take your Gov't Mule, your Phish, your Rusted Root. But Derek Trucks is a special musician - perhaps the greatest slide guitarist who ever lived.
I'm really wary of self-help books.
I'm very strict in my belief that non-fiction should be truthful, and fiction is for invented narratives.
In each scene, the writer sets up a situation, which brings a conflict as well as either a small victory or a loss at the close of that particular scene.
In Minneapolis, I learned that there are more theaters per square mile than in any U.S. city but New York, and we also had great Midwestern beef in our salads in a plaza overlooking the national headquarters of Target, Inc.
In order for a narrative to work, the primary character should have a concrete desire - a need that drives her story - and the story's writer should make this goal known to the reader pretty early in the narrative. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In the worst memoirs, you can feel the author justifying himself - forgiving himself - in every paragraph. In the best memoirs, the author is tougher on him- or herself than his or her readers will ever be.
It's a very performative thing, grief. As with so much in modern life, I think there's a whole performative layer to what we do because we feel like there's a private TV show viewing our lives. Life
It's good training for a novelist to try to discern the truth about a place after only a few glimpses of it. Truth
I've had menial jobs, and 'professional writer' isn't one of them.
Like all writing rules, the injunction to start with the trouble can be broken, and it should be sometimes - if there's good reason.
Maybe the 'Million Little Pieces' of the world are so popular because no one ever writes memoirs about PTA chairwomen; what memoirists do, and often get in trouble for, is bring interesting lives to light.
Memoirs are - memory is - rarely 100 percent accurate. Any autobiography is a construct, ballpark, even unnatural. Private diaries, too, can be unreliable - a detail that matters only if the diary is read.
My first book is about twins who are attached: two people who are joined and can't escape each other.
My knowledge of trains - and love before first sight, love at negative-one sight - comes from Alfred Hitchcock. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
My prayer is improvised - though like some standard jazz performance, the improv happens within pretty strict parameters - and asks for nothing.
My training and my inclination is to invent.
My wife and I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., not too far from where my Long Island childhood happened.
Not to be too 'Tale of Two Cities' about it, but I find writing a memoir easier than writing fiction, and more difficult.
Now, whether my not asking for good things to happen to me is subconsciously intended to win me brownie points with God is something I can't answer. But I do feel the need to give thanks and also not to feel hypocritical by asking for things when I have doubts that God would answer me. Religion & God
Often it's the people who know a place least well who write about it best because they see it fresh.
One of the disconcerting things about writing for publication is that you're trying to clear your little parcel of land in a field where Taste is king - and, as we all know, there's no accounting for Taste.
Perhaps it's because a writer lives in Brooklyn that he'd want to get away from it. It can be very sustaining, this community of writers - sometimes it's the feeling of many hands giving you a boost. But all that identical ambition can be choking, too. The many hands slide up to your throat.
Regret doesn't budge things; it seems crazy that the force of all that human want can't amend a moment, can't even stir a pebble.
Society isn't good at dealing with people who have something concrete to feel guilty about or who are dealing with a loss. Society
Surprisingly, Manhattan casts a sort of undersized shadow onto Long Island. Where I grew up, everyone seemed totally disconnected from the city - ours could have been any suburb, anywhere - though when traffic was thin, it took us only half an hour to get into midtown.
The main thing is to think strategically about what will engage your readers. Trust me when I tell you that few people are eager to read a story whose opening lines sound like a dissertation on giant bugs. Trust
The novelist has permission to do whatever she chooses to supercharge whatever's interesting in her story. This is also known as freedom. Freedom & Liberty
The starkest rejection letter might be followed by a million-dollar advance. Don't let rejection start to look the same as failure. Failure
To a lot of us, literature's eternal significance had seemed beyond arguing - like, say, the illegality of government-sponsored torture.
Too much contemporary fiction seems purposefully to address small things in small ways. And yet why not try for the all-inclusive, the gripping, for the audacious?
Usually, as a fiction writer, you get e-mails saying, 'I liked your book,' or 'I didn't like it.' You don't get something saying, 'I'm really glad this is in the world.'
V. S. Pritchett was one of the most admired, fun, talked-about writers of the 20th century: he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his work with prose. He was born in 1900, wrote till he died in 1997, and has been tidily forgotten ever since. This is a real shame. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
What makes writing a memoir difficult is harder to quantify. Is it learning to know when you're ready to talk about something? Is it seeing the structure in a lumpen mass of fact? Is it finding out what you were really like as other people saw you? Yes to each. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
What's Denver's feel? I know there're mountains, and people in western hats, but I never got a good sense of the city.
When you write fiction, you have an ideal reader in your mind who's sort of you but smarter.
Write what you think is good, is the whole of the law.
You can work really hard and well on something, and someone you respect might hate it; worse, they're not empirically wrong for doing so. This is scary, especially for people who haven't been published. Respect ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
You get a bad review with a novel, and it hurts. But I imagine if you get a bad review with a memoir, it hurts more because you can always say, 'Well, they didn't like my characters,' but when you're the character, it's like, 'Oh, yeah, they actually didn't like me.'

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