Ben Greenman Talks About Being a Brooklyn Writer Who Lives and Writes in Brooklyn

Where have you written your books?

The first one, Superbad, I wrote on scraps of paper that were stowed in pockets, usually in a winter coat for some reason, between 1997 and 1999. Those pieces were short and sharp and they came through the lining and were, at some point, compiled into a book. The second one, Superworse, was all of a piece, and I wrote at a desk. For Please Step Back, which required research, I went to libraries. For Correspondences, which required silence, I went to a small park behind a music conservatory. What He’s Poised to Do, in an easy chair. Celebrity Chekhov, on the couch. My next book, a novel, The Slippage, contained plots and subplots, and to keep track of them I spread out
Post-It notes and index cards on the kitchen table.

No, no. I meant where as in where geographically.

Oh. Brooklyn. Always Brooklyn. It’s strange now to remember that there was a time when I wrote and it didn’t happen in Brooklyn.

And how does it affect what you write?

Funny thing, that. I think it doesn’t. Or rather, it does in the sense that it doesn’t. My published fiction has taken place all around the world: in San Francisco, on the border between Australia and India, in Boston, on the moon. But I haven’t set much fiction in Brooklyn. Last year I contributed a piece to an anthology of unsentimental holiday stories called “Blue Christmas” and edited by John Dufresne. That story takes place right around the corner from my house. There’s a diner that’s Park Café, exactly, right down to the arrangement of the tables, and an appliance store that’s JR appliances. It’s a strange story to me, a little disconcerting, because it takes place in a
recognizable physical space. I’m more comfortable with familiar emotional or psychological space that’s located far away.

Photo Dorothy Hong

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