The Three Rs: Tamas Dobozy

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tamas Dobozy is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has published three books of stories: When X Equals Marylou, Last Notes and Other Stories, and Siege 13. His work has appeared in over fifty publiciations in various journals, including “One Story,” “Agni,” and “Granta.” He won an O Henry Prize in 2011, and The Rogers Writers Trust of Canada Fiction Prize in 2012. He lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with his wife and four children.

When did you first know you wanted to write books?

I was sixteen when I started writing poetry, so I guess that would be about the time. I was a terrible poet, though, so I switched to fiction in my early twenties. My first book came out in 1998, and I regard it as a huge mistake, and regularly leave it off lists of my publications. I don’t even think they’re much available, because the press that published the book went bankrupt, though I still have a fantasy of collecting every copy and destroying them. Maybe I’ll write a short story about that one day, a writer wandering the world trying to get his books back for one glorious auto-da-fé…

What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?

It looks busy. I have four kids, and a full-time job, and more things to remember than I can. Most days I get one hour, sometime during the day, never at the same time. Camilo Jose Cela, the great Spanish novelist, once said that in order to be a writer one must be, “a rag-picker of time,” and I completely agree with him. I write wherever I can, and try to avoid rituals. Some of my most productive moments of writing have happened in hotels, busses, and airports (I absolutely love airports, being alone in them, preferably with a long stretch between my arriving and connecting flights, and have written for longer and in more concentrated ways there than any place else).

Do you type or write?

I type. My hand gets really sore writing by pen, and it’s slower. Though lately I’ve been thinking of switching it up for a change (since the medium of writing does, oddly, affect what is produced in some way, and also because the presence of email and the internet is increasingly intruding on my time as a writer in a very bad way).

What do you read while you’re writing?

Too often I’ll be surfing the internet. Whenever I get stuck I’ll open my browser instead of doing the right thing, which is to sit there and stare off into space and think of how to solve the dilemma. The internet is evil; it really is. I’m a complete addict. The only way to stop it is to turn off my wireless; for some reason having to turn it back on is enough to make me not do it. Otherwise, I’ll sometimes pull a book off a shelf if I’m stuck on a way to write a sentence or paragraph–usually something by Thomas Pynchon, or Mavis Gallant, or Stuart Dybek, or Alvaro Mutis–all writers I turn to in moments of distress.

book cover of When X Equals Marylou byTamas Dobozy
What have you read recently that you really loved?

The Prospector by J.M.G. Le Clezio. The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe. I’m also in the middle of Robert Murray Davis’s book of essays, Born Again Skeptic, and am really loving it–that voice he uses is so direct and intimate, as if you were carrying on a conversation.

What are your all-time favourites?

Mavis Gallant, Thomas Pynchon, Stuart Dybek, Alvaro Mutis, Mikhail Bulgakov, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, J.M.G. Le Clezio, William Faulkner, Jack Hodgins, Agota Kristof, Max Frisch, Paul Bowles, Kenzaburo Oe, Bohumil Hrabal. These are the really important ones.

You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?

This is impossible! Read, I guess. But I’d only read one or two books and then kill myself.

What’s your third R, and why?

Recreation. Everyone needs recreation. Where would I be without my snowboard? Nowhere.
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