Deborah Eisenberg

Deborah Eisenberg speaks of writing as something she has to do in her recent Paris Review (Spring 2013 #218) interview. “But really, one writes to write.” She doesn’t think of it as therapeutic, but then she says she couldn’t have managed the despair she was experiencing, if she hadn’t started to write.

She is bothered by how difficult it is and but doesn’t want it to be easy or approached casually. “I want to do something that I can’t do. I want to be able to do something that I am not able to do.” How often do we hear someone saying this sort of thing?

No wonder she is so often in despair and that for months, perhaps, years, she can’t write anything that satisfies her.

Eisenberg is Jewish, although not spiritually so, for whom Holocaust remains a haunting presence. And like her, I have sought to learn more about it from those who suffered through it or were able somehow to survive. She comments:

“I remember once when I was about five, asking my maternal grandfather, What was it like where you came from? And he said, It was cold. That was the end of the conversation. America was the beginning as far as many of those immigrants were concerned. What happened before that stayed in the darkness.”

“Many of us grew up knowing nothing, or next to nothing, about the horrors of grandparents lived through, and when we search for the source of certain anxieties, all we can locate is a kind of blank inscrutability.”

She is asked about the disparity between her life and that of poverty-stricken individuals. She replies: “The way to respond is to be as much of an activist as you can be, in whatever way you can be.”

It is a noble goal, but she is silent on how she goes about that. Again, I share her belief, but do nothing but proclaim the virtues of doing something.

She says what makes writing worthwhile is knowing you have a reader, one who responds as if they heard you. After all, writing is rather like communicating. You want to dialogue with someone.

Eisenberg concludes her interview with this comment about her writing life: “Either you have to quit for good or you have to tough it out. That’s the choice. You have to be patient.”

Yes, be patient, Richard. If you have anything left, it will come to you and if doesn’t, it will be all right.