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Elliot Perlman: Author of novels and short stories

Elliot Perlman is the author of three novels and a collection of short stories. His debut novel Three Dollars was published in 1998 and won The Age Book of the Year award and the Betty Trask Prize. It was later turned into a film by Elliot and director Robert Connolly, and was released in 2005.

His collection of short stories titled, The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming, was published in 1999. It received the Steele Rudd Award for Best Australian short story collection for 1999, and was a bestseller in the United States, where it was also “Editor’s Choice” in the New York Times Book Review.

His second novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity was published in 2004 to international critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. It was a national bestseller in France, and the United States.

His third novel, The Street Sweeper was published in 2011. A social commentary tour de force, the narrative involves an ensemble of vivid characters, and explores the civil rights movement in America and the holocaust, specifically the horrors of Auschwitz. It was one of the most anticipated releases of Australian fiction last year.

Click play to listen. Running time: 46.31


the street sweeper

* Please note these transcripts have been edited for readability

Rose
Elliot, tell me about your latest book.

Elliot
OK, it’s a novel called The Street Sweeper. Because it’s such a big, fat beast of a thing it might seem hard to describe the plot, but I’ll have a go at describing the plot rather than talking about the themes in abstract, because, well, that might seem a bit abstract, too abstract.

So, I guess there are two narrative arcs mainly in The Street Sweeper. The first of them deals with an African-American janitor who has been — he’s served a term of six years imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’s desperate to find his daughter, a little girl who is now eight, and he hasn’t seen her since she was two, or two and a half. And he manages, and he thinks he’s terribly fortunate to get chosen to be the first ex-convict in a pilot program at a hospital, a cancer hospital in Manhattan called Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre and if he can survive six months probation there he’ll get to keep the job with various benefits and entitlements. And if he can do that he’s in a much better position from which to find his daughter, but also to try and find a place for him in working class America, as opposed to the underclass homeless people, which he’s terrified of falling into.

On Day 4 of his probationary period he meets an elderly man, a patient who is a Jewish Holocaust survivor and actually a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. And they end up swapping stories, and it’s this exchange of stories that’s going to have a profound effect on both of them, but particularly on the African-American janitor, whose name is Lamont. Now, that’s strand one.

Strand two, occurs just a few kilometers up the road, slightly to the west, at Columbia University, in the surrounding area of Manhattan called Morningside Heights, and there we find an Australian historian who is untenured, and he’s terrified, with good reason, that he’s going to lose his job, because he hasn’t written anything new for five years, and so he’s not going to get tenure. Because he’s so certain of this professional doom he unilaterally ends a wonderful romantic relationship with a woman he’s been with for years. She’s a woman who would like to marry him and have a child with him. And he’s so certain that he’s going to be unemployed that he thinks he should end the relationship and give her a chance to meet somebody else with better prospects than him and have a child with that person before it’s too late. The area in which he has some expertise, the area of history, is the history of the civil rights movement in the US.

And these two narrative arcs are going to become close and closer together as we weave in and out of the present and the past, going through mid-century Chicago to American labor relations, to the meat workers in Chicago, Black and White labor relations, Black and Jewish relations, in the present and in the 20th century, and also through the holocaust in Europe and pre-holocaust Europe, and even a little while in Australia. And we go back and forwards in time and all of this, though it might sound unlikely now, will eventually meet up, the two narrative strands will eventually meet up.

Rose
Often people ask where the idea of a book came from, but that’s multiple big ideas. How do those ideas come together into one story for you?

Elliot
Again, I apologise, Rose, most of my answers – I try to make them shorter, but there isn’t a really short answer. The beginning of the answer to that very good question is where I was living. I was living in New York and the first place that I lived in New York was immediately opposite Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in Manhattan. And we’re used to hearing that New York is a microcosm of the world in that you have pretty much representatives of every kind of people — nationally, ethically, racially, educationally in terms of diverse interest, they’re all there in New York. Well this hospital Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre takes up a city block in Manhattan, and it is in a sense a microcosm of New York.

And because I was living directly across the street from the hospital, which is very far on the east side of Manhattan, and I was living on York Avenue, which is virtually on the East River, and in order to get anywhere West other than by cab or by walking you had to take a bus. And the nearest bus to me, that was going to take me to the West side was directly outside the hospital. So, I spent a lot of time waiting for buses outside the hospital, and there I got to see this mass of teeming humanity, groups of completely desperate people, people that you would never expect to meet, people that you would never expect to meet each other.

And they would meet each other. Patients would be brought down to the sidewalk for a breath of New York air, and staff members, not just the medical staff, but also the administration staff, the janitorial staff, the people involved in providing the food, delivery people, educational people, because they had a library there, fundraising people, all of these people would come out for break, plus the visitors, the patients had friends and family who would come and visit them, because the patients came from all over the world, so did the friends and family. And I would see them talk to each other, because they’re in a fairly confined space. And all of them were under some kind of duress, as you can imagine, and there arose one of those — I suppose you would call tantalising questions, “What if an unlikely friendship were to blossom between two people who should never really statistically have met?” And I chose those two people to be Lamont, the African American ex-con janitor, looking for his daughter, and the elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor. And there you see them come together as early as part one of the novel, and that in a sense was the starting point for The Street Sweeper.

Rose
Did the idea evolve much as you were writing it? Or did you go in with the story mapped out and planned?

Elliot
I pretty much had it mapped out. One, because it’s such a complex story I felt I needed to, but two I guess it’s part of my personality to be… what? To be anxious, to be anal retentive, and to think that, “This story is going to take me years to write,” and, look, I mean I felt pretty much the same way about Seven Types of Ambiguity, and really of all the stories, maybe even some of the short stories in The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming, I need to know the ending before I get too far into them, because there’s always a danger — you know, you often hear writers say, “Well, I created these characters,” or, “Somehow the characters found me and then they led me by the ear to the end of the novel and really they controlled me, I didn’t control them.” I think sometimes that’s true when you hear authors say that, but a lot of times it probably isn’t true. And certainly in my case I couldn’t do that because I’m so terrified that I’d spend years working on the book and I’d get to the end of the story and realize that there was maybe one, or two, or possibly three possible endings, and what would I do if none of those endings satisfied me? I’d be horrified because I had wasted years of my life getting to that position. So, in order to try and ensure against that eventuality, that possibility, I need to plan it fairly meticulously.

Because of the degree, the research, quantitative research that this book required I had to plan it really quite carefully because this book required more research than all of the previous three books put together.

Rose
I don’t know if all of the copies of The Street Sweeper have it, but my copy of The Street Sweeper comes with a fairly lengthy bibliography, which is unusual in a fiction book. Tell me why is the research so important to you?

Elliot
Look, I think because the novel deals with two such important historical events or phenomena, namely the civil rights movement in the US and the Holocaust in Europe, I felt a tremendous sense of obligation to pursue the whole task with all the rigor of a historian. I’m not a historian, but I so wanted to get the facts right in an attempt to a.) do justice to the story; b.) do justice to the victims; and c.) to either remind readers of things they might have forgotten, or in some cases to tell them things they didn’t know at all. And, it’s a little bit daunting to take those historical events on yourself, but the way I look at it is it’s hard enough to write anything, it really is, so you may as well write something that’s important to you and the themes of social justice and writing against racism and xenophobia, or anti-Semitism, are so important to me that I knew sooner or later they would emerge in a book. And, it wasn’t until my fourth book that they came out, but I really wanted to get it right.

Rose
Sections of The Street Sweeper really delve into the horrify of Auschwitz, what was your motivation and what was it like to write those sections?

Elliot
Well, my motivation was really — I think a lot of people, including well-meaning people, and including even well-meaning Jews, children or grandchildren of either survivors or the generation of survivors, all of these people think that they know about the Holocaust, because they’re saturated, in fact many, many people in the western world are maybe over saturated in the imagery, the iconography of the Holocaust, they’ve seen the images of emaciated prisoners those stripped pajama-looking uniforms and they’ve seen the emaciated bodies when they’re almost skeletons, but just moving. Or they’ve seen the bodies being bulldozed into pits.

It’s so horrific that they think, “That’s the Holocaust. It’s horrible. I’ve seen it, I know about it, I don’t need to know anymore, let’s move on. In fact while they are saturated with the imagery they’re completely starved, actually ignorant of the very facts of what really happened. For me I think it’s important that people know what happened — I have a personal reason for that because of my family connection, I’m Jewish and my grandparents came to Australia in the late ‘20s to escape anti-Semitism and they lost pretty much everyone, and had they not come to Australia we wouldn’t be talking now. And, I feel a personal responsibility to try and tell people what happened. And the other responsibility with respect to the Holocaust is, not even as a Jew or as a family member, the descendent of people who perished, but just as human being, because the Holocaust is really the gold standard of civil rights abuse. If you know enough about it then you can be warned of everything else. It acts as beacon to show us the depths of which our species can go.

And then when you come to the civil rights movement — I was brought up to regard the civil rights movement really as a kind of contemporary or modern chapter in the history of the enlightenment, that movement where in our species, although we take two steps back we do take one step forward every now and then, and that step forward is this attempt to rid ourselves of irrational prejudices and see things clearly without the distortion of biased against people on the basis of their skin colour or where their from, or their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, or sexual preference. And, the Civil Rights movement is unequivocally a good news story because while race is still important in the United States and people that might be categorized as people of colour, particularly African Americans, do statistically have a harder time of life in the US, even in the 21 century. The fact remains that you can’t ignore the progress that was made in this area, in the second half of the 21 century. And it’s a shining example of what we can do as a species. When you look at the ingenuity, and the tenacity, and the bravery of this group of oppressed people and what they are able to — initially by changing the law, and then by testing the law, and really calling the rest of America to live up to its ideals. It’s unequivocally a good story, particularly because I was living in the US.

I thought, “OK, maybe it’s time for me to try even to tell that story as well, and so that’s another long winded answer, Rose, to your question as to what was my motivation?

The second part of your question, if I’m recalling correctly is how did I do it, or how did I get through it?

Rose
Yeah, and what was it like to write about –

Elliot
About Auschwitz?

Look, it was difficult, but I was — it’s emotionally difficult and you have to marshal of the information. I interviewed a lot of people, a lot of survivors, and I read a hell of a lot and I went to Auschwitz six times in order to — as much as possible immerse myself in not just the information, but the landscape of the place, because to write about it unflinchingly is such a daunting task that I felt that I needed to do this. And, there were times when, yeah, it would grind me down, but then I would think, “I have no right to be self-indulgent about it.” When I think of the people that were there, I have to suck this up and do my job and tell the truth about what happened, and that’s how I got myself through it, kind of with self-loathing, that you know, “How dare I be so weak to flinch when this is nothing compared to what the victims experienced.” And I think that’s how I got through it.

Rose
All of your books tackle big social issues, and you mentioned that sooner or later, you knew you were going to tackle the idea of racism and social inequality. Do you start your writing with an issue, or does it emerge as you write?

Elliot
I certainly don’t start off thinking, “OK, today I’m going to critique economic rationalism, and tomorrow it’ll be the prison system, or the stock market, or anything like that.” But, I suppose somehow, you know, we’re drawn to the things that interest us. If you really want to take your own writing seriously, and I suppose all of that sort of material dies interest me, leaving aside political labels, I guess because I was so brought up in a kind of humanist tradition. It’s not necessarily something I mean to do, but it is something I tend to do, in the same way as, you know, you’re probably unlikely to read a description of a sunset in any of my books, but you will get, I don’t know, the emotional states of people in situations of duress. And those situations of duress, while they could be caused by romantic hardship, they could easily also be caused by socio-economic difficulties, or one kind of injustice or another.

Rose
Sure, when you’re reading a story with social commentary through it, like all of yours have been, do you consider that message aspect separately to your narrative? How do you balance the story so it doesn’t come across too strongly?

Elliot
Well, look, there probably, I shouldn’t say probably, there are certainly some readers, some critics who think that I have failed to get that balance right. And to a certain extent it’s a question of judgment, and for some people I might have been too heavy handed on the message. And for other people, I don’t know, maybe too light, or maybe I’ve got it just right, or some parts of some books erred too much one way, or too much the other. It’s definitely something I’m aware of, because, for all that I have these various beliefs, the story has to come first. I strongly feel that, because, you might even agree with my views before you pick up the book, but if I hit you over the head with it, you’re going to have a sore head, and you’re not going to like it.

Also, if I can’t get you to turn the pages, then, you know, I could have the most beautiful, ethical message, but it’s going to be completely wasted because you don’t want to read it. I don’t think that for literature to be great it has to have a social message by any means, but I think that when it does it’s not bad thing. And it might well be, I don’t know, a little unfashionable at the moment to write things with any kind of message, because you run the risk of wearing your heart on your sleeve and, I don’t know, any time you do that, it’s the same in personal relationships. You meet somebody, someone of the opposite sex if you’re heterosexual, and you spend some time with them, and then there’s going to come a moment when you realize that you have feelings for them, and then the moment will eventually come where you’re going to tell them that. And that’s a terribly, it’s a moment of great vulnerability, and in a sense, it’s the same when you stick your neck out and wear your heart on your sleeve in your writing.

But I think in the ‘80s and ‘90s we lived through a time of tremendous cynicism, and I’m not saying that there weren’t terrific books published at that time, but the fashion seemed to be for cynicism. And as eloquent or funny, or witty, ascorbic as that might be, sooner or later I think we need, the reader needs, the species needs, somebody to say, “All jokes aside, this is what I believe, and this is what I think is important.” And it might not change the view of any one reader, or any one person, but at least it has the chance of making the reader feel less alone in his or her beliefs, even if their nascent, unarticulated beliefs. Part of the job of the writer can be to say these things for the reader, and so the reader feels less alone in feeling them. And, I don’t know, I’m trying to find another word other than empowered, but galvanized to, in holding these views, and even articulating them maybe.

Rose
Your books have always had that strong, I guess moral theme throughout them, but the writing style has changed over time. How do you see it as changing?

Elliot
It’s funny, I’m interested that you say it’s changed — I’m not saying that it hasn’t changed, but it’s kind of hard for me to see them objectively. So, you know, without putting you on the spot, you don’t have to answer this, especially since it’s an interview of me, but if you want to, I’m curious to know the way you see it having changed?

Rose
OK, so I guess in two ways, I’d love your comment on. The first is that the scope of the stories has seemed to have gotten bigger, both in the narrator’s voice, but also in terms of the concepts, and even the variety of settings. And also there’s been this flowering of numbers of characters in your books, Three Dollars had three or four key characters, Seven Types of Ambiguity had around just a little bit under 10, and The Street Sweeper’s got dozens, and a whole lot of extras. There’s been this kind of increase in the scope of your stories, but also in the amount of people who are in those. Were they conscious decisions, or –?

Elliot
You’re a very astute reader, Rose. And, I would imagine that you’d be a pretty good teacher of either creative writing or literature generally, or both. Everything thing you just said I’ve got to agree with, but it’s not something that I had — I was even, you know, when you put it to me, I had to say, “Yes, you’re right.” But I mean, yeah, look, obviously I did know that Seven Types and The Street Sweeper are physically bigger, they’re longer stories, and they’re more complex stories than, well the short stories by definition, but also Three Dollars as well, the first novel.

I suppose to a certain extent you gain a little bit of confidence because you manage to write — here’s the way I found it, I would imagine it’s the same for many writers, and it might be the same for you too. At first I wrote secretly. I was at university, and I was playing in a band, and I didn’t mind telling people that I played in a band. And someone would say, “Do you want to meet for a drink or a coffee?” And I had no shame in saying, “I’d like to, but I can’t I’ve got band practise/rehearsal.” And they’d say, “Oh, yeah, OK.” And maybe occasionally you’d play a gig and people could come or not, and no one expected that you were going to be radio quality. It was alright to just be OK, and you were going to try, and this seemed like a valid way to spend some of your time.

But it, seemed to me, at least the way I felt, that I couldn’t tell anyone, “Sorry, I can’t meet you for a drink because I’m perfecting a paragraph.” That would sound socially awkward, so I did it in secret. And so I went from that position, being really quite a serious reader, in the sense of somebody that took great interest in what I was reading and how it was written and constructed, and tried to look back on, you know, if I got moved, how did he or she do that? And going from that position to somebody that secretly in a room, tries doing a little bit of it themselves, and then you get a story published here or there, and you think, “Well, maybe I’m on the right track.” And then you get your first novel published, and they don’t ignore it, and you get asked to write more.

And your confidence builds, and you think, “I wonder how far I can take this?” And then you think, “Well, I don’t know how long this can go on, I have another…” I’m a lawyer by training, and I practise as a barrister, I have practiced as a barrister. And you’re always worried, anything you do in the arts is precarious, and you wonder, “How far can I take this? Can I make this my career for the rest of my life and support myself this way, or will I be stopped?” And while I’ve been fortunate enough to keep going, I thought, “Well, maybe I can get a little bit more ambitious, and tackle some themes and issues that are important to me.” And, in that respect, you start to plan a wider canvas, if you like. So in that respect, I guess to a certain extent it has to be conscious, but it’s not conscious in the sense of, “Now I will…”

You know, my next book could well be physically smaller, and about something quite finite, and quite, I hope it’s important, but not anything on such a grand scale as Street Sweeper or Seven Types of Ambiguity. I think it’s more, and I wonder if you feel like this, because I happen to know that you’re in the middle of writing something, something catches you, and I don’t know if it’s like a piece of music, or the taste of something, and you think, “That’s it, that’s what I want to write about.” Do you find that?

Rose
Yeah, I mean I wonder how much of a role do your characters play in that moment for you, because they’re often quite distinct and quite complex. Do you plan those out before you start writing, or do they emerge on the page as well?

Elliot
Some of them emerge a little bit on the page. I think what happens is that I plan the plot, and many of the characters sort of appear at that stage. And many of them get fleshed out in the writing. But, they can’t take me off on a — it’s not like one of them is going to suddenly become an astronaut and take me into outer space, when I planned that they’re a teacher, you know? I don’t let them rule me to that extent, but in the writing sometimes layers of their personality get developed and shaped and molded. But there are certain characters, I don’t know, for example Simon in Seven Types of Ambiguity, I just knew him right from the beginning, I think before I’d written the first word, I could see him as I saw him. I don’t know how the reader sees him, as a kind of complex, flawed, but very romantic capital ‘R’ romantic, as well as small ‘r’ romantic, he’s in love with somebody. But, also he’s so idealistic that he’s bound to get hurt, and he’s bound to therefore become somewhat cynical . And so you’ve got this cocktail in one person of romance, idealism, cynicism, quite high intelligence, all crashing into the realities of a life that is not going well at all for him. And he’s going to be in some kind of situation of extremist. And when you get all of that emerging in your mind before you’ve even written the first word, you have a pretty good idea of how the character’s going to be. I mean that’s an example of a character that was quite well formed before I started writing the book. Then there are other characters that emerge, that become much more fully formed and fleshed out in the writing.

Rose
Sure, I mean this is just a guess, but I based on reading your books, how do you find the writing for your dialogue, is that a part that you particularly enjoy doing?

Elliot
I do actually, yes. Thank you for talking about that. I do enjoy the dialogue, I like trying to — I think it’s because maybe I’m a frustrated performer. I used to act a little bit when I was younger, and I used to play in bands and everything. Now I just write the characters, I don’t actually perform them. I really enjoyed trying to write realistic people, and capturing the way they speak. And that can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the whole process.

Rose
It’s interesting because dialogue is one of the things that a lot of writers struggle with. I think in our courses we say that a majority of people aren’t comfortable writing it, but some are. What would your advice be to people who are trying to get their dialogue to come to life?

Elliot
I think, to listen a lot when they’re out in public or with other people. Almost artificially, don’t just do it because you’re having a conversation with those people, but find yourself in a café or a coffee shop or a bar, and without getting into a fight, try to listen in. And the other thing is, when you are sitting there writing, try to be hard on yourself, and write some dialogue between two characters, and then say, “Is this really how people talk?” And sometimes you’ll have characters that are speaking in a way that not many people do talk, but some do. And they’re speaking in a certain way because they are a certain type of character. The answer to the question, “Is this how people talk?” For this character might be not many people talk this way, but this person does.

I guess you need to be hard on yourself when you’re reading back over your dialogue. And the other thing is, if you look at the interaction between say, two characters, just to make it as simple as possible, say it’s a conversation between two characters. Ask yourself whether they’re speaking at all differently? So could, if their dialogue is interchangeable, there’s always the possibility, more of a possibility, that maybe you haven’t captured the voice quite well enough.

It’s hard to give hard and fast rules about this because it’s a craft, and it’s quite a delicate thing. I wish I could just say the answer is seven, and you always program a seven in there, and it’ll work. But it’s always a matter of judgment, and really you want to have the best ear possible, and to a certain extent some of us are born, maybe for example, more musically gifted than others, but you can maximize your own capacities as a writer of dialogue by a.) doing it a lot; and b.) listening to as many different kinds of people as you can; and c.) finally, once you have written some dialogue, being quite hard on yourself in your assessment of it.

Rose
You spoke before about you know what the ending is of the story. All of your stories end without giving anything away, end in finished but still open-ended places. How and when do you choose to end that story?

Elliot
I probably choose the way I end it around the time I’m planning the whole thing. And then that gets back to something we talked about before, where I feel like I need to know the way it’s going to end in order to have the confidence that it’s worth all the effort I’m putting into it.

As to why they end that particular way, I think life’s like that, actually. Most of our lives don’t end up with an unambiguously terrible thing or fabulous thing happening. Personally, I like to offer readers some hope, but I don’t want to make it unrealistic. So you’re looking to offer hope within the bounds of verisimilitude, within the bounds of a reality that the reader would perceive as true to his or her experience of life. That sort of is I guess as close as I come to having some sort of a philosophy on that.

Rose
Sure, I know that you’re out promoting The Street Sweeper at the moment, but are you working on your next book?

Elliot
No, look, I really, I was up at 2:30 in the morning doing an interview with America. I suffer insomnia anyway, at the moment, and I’ve just come back from western Australia, and in a couple of days I go to Adelaide for 30 hours, and then the following morning I go to the UK. So, I really don’t have time to do anything more than perhaps make notes about the things I’d like to work on next. But, it’s exciting to know that time will be coming.

Rose
And do you have a time when you are going to sit down and work out what the next idea you’re going to write is, or are you going to let that just evolve as it needs to?

Elliot
Well, I’ve got certain things that are competing for my attention, and it’s kind of nice that way, because you know, you don’t feel fully committed to any one idea yet, and they sort of dance before your eyes and say, “Choose me!” But probably the thing I’ll work on soonest, as soon as I get a chance, is in a sense something that’s quite new to me, and it’s something collaborative, I’m working on a pilot for a comedy television program for a group of musicians called Michelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen. And they’re tremendously talented guys, and very funny.

I saw them perform live several years ago, having heard their music without seeing them. And having seen them live I was convinced that these guys are characters in search of a story. And to cut a long story short, we have agreed that I will be the person that tries to tell their story in a humorous fashion. And that’s really quite exciting, because one, it’s funny; and two it’s collaborative.

And I spent five and a half years alone in a room except for the times that I was out interviewing people, searching for The Street Sweeper, which is quite a big and dramatic, in some places very dark story. So it would be a lot of fun to work on something collaborative and funny, with some really talented people.

Rose
Sure. And finally, what’s your advice to writers?

Elliot
Wow, my advice to writers, generally, not on anything specific, but just generally?

Rose
You can pick a specific topic if you’d like.

Elliot
Well, you now what I say, and this is not said flippantly, the first thing I say to aspiring writers is, “This is such a hard thing to do that if you don’t really have to do it, don’t do it, because it can hurt you.” People think that that sounds overly dramatic, but anyone who’s spent enough time writing and wondering whether it’s any good, and losing perspective when you rewrite, and then trying to get a story out there, and trying to interest anybody, a reader, an editor, a publisher, knows how heartbreaking it can be. If you don’t absolutely have to do this, other than for maybe some kind of therapy privately, then my first piece of advice is do something else.

My second piece of advice is, if you find that you can’t do something else, that this is a — it’s got you, you just can’t shake this need to try and write and tell a story, then my next piece of advice is try to get something behind you that won’t economically humiliate you. Because writing is a craft, and the more you do it the better you’ll get at it. And what if I were to tell you, Rose, that, you know, you’re a writer, you’re working on something, and you are going to be incredibly successful, in fact, you’re going to win the Nobel prize for literature, you’ll be the first person after Patrick White. But here’s the catch, you’re not going to get published at all until you’re 49, you’re going to write a number of books, novels, that will all be rejected, and you’re going to feel like giving up. And while all of your friends and contemporaries have gone from crappy jobs to better jobs, and better cars, and better flats and apartments and finally a house. And you’re still waiting tables to support your writing habit, the chances are that you’ll be so hurt by what the writing is doing to you that you’ll quit. And then you’ve robbed yourself and the world of those novels that are going to win you the Nobel prize.

If you can get something behind you and find a way to coexist between the writing world and everybody else’s world, you’ve got more of a chance of being successful, because you’ll be able to keep going longer without being burned by the whole process. That’s my other piece of general advice.

Rose
Thank you, that’s wonderful. And on that note, thank you very much for joining us today, Elliot.

Perlman
My absolute pleasure, thank you for your wonderful questions.

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