In writing class, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “Oh, this draft is a little better than that one. Anything can be incrementally improved.” But there’s a very simple rule of writing: it’s all shit, until it isn’t. Steady, incremental improvement does not work in art. Some people wake up one morning and they write a fucking great book. Or they write shit for twenty years and somehow, miraculously, one day, because they have made all the mistakes they could have made writing shit, they write something that contains no mistakes. It’s fucking perfect. I’d written shit for many years. Then I came here and looking through what I’d written in Bosnia, I found a paragraph, randomly, that was not shit, and I thought, “That’s how I want to write.”I used to live down the block from Hemon, and a couple of blocks away from Studs Terkel. You never knew who was going to be out for a walk on a Saturday.
Hemon's new book, The Book of my Lives, looks like a heck of a read.