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  • Literature
    202-885-2971
    Fax: 202-885-2938
    lit@american.edu
    Battelle Tompkins, Room 237

    Rangel-Mullin, Rebecca
    Sr. Administrative Assistant

Mailing Address

Christoffer Molnar, Interview & Writing Sample

ICL: From being part of the program and participating in workshops and the Visiting Writers series, what do you think are the most important things you have learned about your own writing?  How has your writing changed?  

I think what I've learned—and this probably won't surprise anyone who's received critiques from me—is that I tend to hate.  I'm snottily picky by nature, and the program has helped me read and write such a great variety (in terms of genre, theme, style) that I've started to understand the small sliver of literature I love.  I don't think this discovery is a crystallization; at least I hope it remains plastic; but it is a classification, and I'm finding that, knowing this small sliver, I'm much more able to triage my own ideas in a way that quickly rejects something I might be able to do decently in favor of something that I can do excellently, if only after a significant heap of revisions.  In other words, I know myself a little better.  Which I ought to, since I'm continually writing about identity.

ICL: What is your favorite quote or line from a book?  

I love quotations....

"After a little I am taken in and put to bed.  Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am."
James Agee, A Death in the Family

"At last he fell asleep, with his hands covering the vulnerable parts of his body, and wishing he had hands to cover himself all over."  V.S Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

"The way I am broken tells you something unique about me."

Henri Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved
   
ICL: What have you read most recently that inspired you? 

A tweet from Blake Butler: "When a book plainly spells out a character's motivation/logic I just see it saying I THINK YOU THE READER ARE STUPID STUPID STUPID"
   
ICL: Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.  

I helped stitch up a drunken Honduran who'd tried to slit his wrist with a machete after attacking his wife. Can I copyright that so no one can steal it for a story?

ICL: If your life had a theme song right now, what would it be? 

"Love Comes to Me" by Bonnie Prince Billy, largely because I get to be married over the summer.

4'33" by John Cage. ("Silence is God's first language," St. John of the Cross)

Whatever Justin Bieber song Mark Cugini listed.

 

Writing Sample

From "The Chef Does Not Enter the Dining Room"

"Too much?  Exactly!" he erupted at me, sloshing lobster bisque into fishbowls, garnishing them with lopsided sheaves of thyme.  I could barely hoist the platter.  And when I slugged back to the kitchen a crate of scarcely nibbled sweetbreads, he bellowed, "Don't clear a single scrap!"  Plates I may remove, and bowls, but only to be met by, "Refill it!  See what they can take," as he shoves into my path the barrel of watermelon sherbet.

It's a badly run place, despite (because of?) the unimpeachable authority.  One night, twenty-six new tables get wedged into one hall, while in the next half the chairs sit empty, their places not even set.  We doubt chef knows his clientèle.  Though some diners leave swearing to his greatness, more are evicted by the taciturn maitre d'.  They whimper to his impassive ears, "But I wasn't done, wasn't even started," nonetheless dragged irreversibly out.  He explains, on occasion, but are the eaters satisfied?  Ha.  I support his silence.  As if a seat is deserved.  We take no reservations, but we give no bills.  So it's fine if you don't tip, but—ahem—feel free to.

Why, then, do we work?  I ask you, why do you eat?  It is here, as are we.  We waiters make no mistakes, but we are not always informed.  Complain, sure, if that's your thing.  Proclaim to me, "I ordered quail!" (a fine choice!)—but know there is nothing to be done about it.  Object, "I didn't ask for raspberry ganache!" (a bit heavy, to me)—but know there is nothing to be done about it.  Chef sends the courses as he will, and they aren't going anywhere else; don't talk about tiny kids in a dry-dust country.  Know there is nothing to be undone about these deposits.  My laying a plate on your table is no suggestion to eat, nor an endorsement of flavor, nor an indication of your gastrointestinal abilities. Your guts are yours; I serve you only as I must: bestowal. The meal is what it is, and more, and your table cannot be emptied by me.


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Christoffer Molnar