Susan Choi

[WRITER]

talks with

Francisco Goldman

[WRITER]

“I HAD THIS THEORY THAT I WOULD SORT OF PUT MYSELF OUT THERE, AND IT WAS AS IF I WAS THE PEN, LETTING MY OWN INTUITIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES GUIDE ME.”
Counterintuitive characteristics of certain Central Americans:
Sandinistas are idealistic teenagers
Honduran reporters have no idea what is happening in Honduras
Aztecs were the first balloon twisters

By the time I met Francisco Goldman at a party in early 1997 I was already insanely in love with his writing, a condition that had never overcome me before where a living writer was concerned. I felt then, as I continue to feel today, that it was my great good fortune to be alive and writing on the same planet with him; little did I know that later that evening I would be drunk with him, and the next day extremely hungover with him, although Frank’s version of being hungover resembles most peoples’ version of being intensely enthusiastic. Frank showed up first thing the next morning to remind me and my boyfriend that we’d promised to take him to the beach to see seals; this was Cape Cod in February, and the temperature was something lower than zero. But we went and saw seals, all the while borne along by Frank’s unequalled stories, as we’ve continued to be for the seven years since. The son of an American father and a Guatemalan mother, Frank grew up with one foot in Guatemala and the other in New England, not unlike the narrator of his extraordinary first novel, The Long Night of White Chickens (1992), which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for first fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The Ordinary Seaman followed in 1997 and was among other things nominated for the PEN/Faulkner, the LA Times Book Award, and the IMPAC Dublin. This fall he’s publishing a hilarious, tender, magnificent new novel, The Divine Husband. Dan Cryer of Newsday says, “His talent is nothing short of astonishing,” and I could not say it better. Since 1999, Frank and I have been neighbors in Brooklyn, and this past June he came over and sat in my yard for a few hours to talk about his work past and present.

—Susan Choi

*

SUSAN CHOI: At any point did anybody teach you how to be a reporter? Were you worried? Or did you just do it?

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: Yeah, I just did it, I threw myself into it. Exactly doing stuff like that. And I think mainly I began to develop a kind of style which would be… I don’t think I was ever particularly good at being a reporter—finally, years later, with the Bishop Gerardi murder pieces, I think I finally got somewhere. But my method back then was very much a fiction writer’s approach to journalism. I began to think of the way you would start a short story and begin with a character, and you hold that pen in your hand, and push it along, and wait to see what will develop—and I had this theory that I would sort of put myself out there, and it was as if I was the pen, letting my own intuitions and circumstances guide me. And I would let myself try and find a narrative.

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