Is Your Novel Autobiographical?

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Academics spend their careers studying how autobiographical novels are. Readers spend hours obsessing over it. But in a brief interview with The New Yorker’s Book Bench, Aleksandar Hemon may have answered the age old question about whether his novel is autobiographical in a way that just might answer this question for all writers forever. Thank God (via Jacket Copy).

 

“Here’s how it works: Last night, on my way to give a reading, I hurt a ligament in my right hand while putting my shoe on. As I was driving this morning and talking on the phone with my sister in London, I lost my grip and sideswept my neighbor’s car. Being honest, I went to their house to tell them what I had done. When I rang the bell nobody answered. I knocked and went in anyway, thinking they might be in the backyard. The house was empty, and as I walked through I noticed a vase in the shape of a monkey head. The light angle made it somehow seem that the monkey was winking at me, so I picked the head up to examine it, but then, dropped it, what with the weak hand ligament, and it shattered in a thousand pieces. For a moment, I considered cleaning up or waiting for my neighbors to show up, but then decided to sneak out. Now I dread hearing the door bell.

I could go on and turn this into a story. I did hurt my hand last night and I did get into the car this morning, but I did not cause any damage, nor did I trespass. I did not talk to my sister yesterday, but she does live in London. And I’ve never seen a monkey head like that. So, how much of this putative story is autobiographical?”


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He’s been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →