10 Under 10: Writers to Watch

TEN_under_TEN_car

 

4) Milo Castorio (Age 4)

“A Strange Thing, A Sad Thing”

Where were you born?

New York.

Where do you live now?

The gloomy suburbs of Nowhere, USA.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

Probably Lydia Chesternut’s oblique, beautiful Yellow Sprite, Bright Goodnight, a stirring tale in the magical realist tradition about a young boy who is startled awake from the somnambular ennui of late capitalism by an accidental visit to the unseen, spectral netherworld that thrives in the midst of our own. Also, Jerzy Kosinski’s Steps.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Three days, in a geyser-burst of inspiration, writing anywhere and anyway I could: I’d flip over my math work, writing reams on the reverse side of the page; during naptime, I made surreptitious scribbles on napkins, on torn leaflets of notebook paper. I was indefatigable, possessed of a desire to commit that dreaded alchemy of, as Céline put it, “connecting verb to emotion.”

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

No.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

The only true vocation of life is the work of dying, and the only true topic of fiction is death. Fiction writing is the work of reconciling us to this death, of alerting us to the reality that death, like Chesternut’s fairy world, is always at arm’s length—is, perhaps, somehow more real than life itself.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

I’ve always been fascinated by super villains, and by the uninterrogated valorization of so-called super heroes. My story looks at the unexamined consequences of one such triumph of super-heroic “good” over super-villainous “evil,” and follows a group of lonely, directionless minions as they mourn the passing of their leader—a goblin general who had sought, in a tragic act of hubris, to conquer the world.

What are you working on now?

I’m under contract with Picador for a new work—part memoir, part fictive Borgesian penseé. I don’t think I’m allowed to say much more than that.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

The older generations are wearied, retiring, blanched. With Rimbaud, I too declare: Il faut être absolument moderne. That is the only forward.

 

5) Boris Buseel (Age 3)

“Elbows, Elbows, Knees”

Where were you born?

Lisbon, Portugal.

Where do you live now?

I’m a citizen of the world.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. Because, in our day-to-day lives, this is what we all are, is it not—”exercises in style”? The same story told ever again, ever afresh in a different form? The same uncertain body under the same sun, outfitted again for a new day? 

How long did it take you to write your first book?

How long does it take any of us to write our “first books”? Is not every book, first, a “first book”? And every book we write—have we not been writing it our whole lives?

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

One does not become or not become a writer, nor can a person be or not be a writer. Rather, one writes—and to the extent that one writes, in the time that one writes, one is a writer. But all of us, in these many days of our lives, as we live these days—are we not also writing?

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

An incentive! All kidding aside: fiction is the marriage of the synchronic and the diachronic—a common law marriage, an uneasy cohabitation—and the linguistic record of their divorce. To the extent that work enters into the equation, it is “work” in the strict sense of Newtonian physics, measured not in bank notes, not in units of realized catharsis, but in joules. The product of force and distance: this is the work of fiction, and fiction “works” so long as the force acts on a synchronic body such that there is a diachronic displacement of the point of application.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

What is it that inspires any of us? Our mothers, our fathers? Our teachers, our classmates? The auditorium, the cafeteria, the playground? The chalkboard, its ghostly erasures? The girl beside us, with her coy shame-desiring eyes—does she love us? And these eyes, this love—is it this, finally, that will redeem us? Such was the genesis of “Elbows, Elbows, Knees.”

What are you working on now?

A collection of interrelated short stories for Scholastic—a kind of fugue in the key of language.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

Over ten? My favorite writers are over life itself—gone, passed to the other side. Nabokov, Musil, Queneau: the beautiful souls.

 

6) Liam Pratt-Byrne (Age 9)

“Fine, I’ll Just Stay Here By Myself”

Where were you born?

Dublin, Ireland.

Where do you live now?

Dad had to go to London for work and we all had to go with him. My best friend Timmy had to stay behind because he has his own family and his own house. 

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

I’d have to say Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, because that’s a book about moving around a lot too. I identify with that. 

How long did it take you to write your first book?

I wrote a lot of it in the car down from Dublin to England, and since it’s a pretty slim novella, that was all the time I needed. I had the whole backseat to myself and I could spread out my note cards and such.

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

No.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

I think you should have a strong sense of trust in the narrator, a sense that he’s truthful, that you can follow him without doubting that something is being left out of the story, or that you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised later on. When you feel you have a narrator who is just going to pull the rug out from under you at any moment, changing the setting and therefore the tone of the work, that puts the reader on edge, I think. It all comes down to the sense of security and stability. I strive to create an atmosphere that won’t blow up in your face and leave you wondering why the water in London tastes different and why you have to change for gym at the new school and why Turtle the cat had to stay behind.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

Well, as I said, I wrote “Fine, I’ll Just Stay Here By Myself” in the car, so I think that really infused it with a sense of injustice, just pure rage, really, both about the move and also about the way the seatbelt always cuts my neck. The jarring, unorthodox word choices that have been described as “lyrical” and “Joycean” were honestly just potholes where my pen slipped and then I couldn’t read my own handwriting later. 

What are you working on now?

It’s called “London: I Don’t Have to Like It.”

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

I try to immerse myself in the language and rhythms of other fellow Irishmen like Beckett and Brian Friel.

[4 MORE WRITERS TO WATCH >>]