The Questionnaire: David Ulin

March 26, 2012

How do you get up in the morning?

With difficulty.


Do you succumb to nostalgia? 

Not anymore. Thomas Pynchon says we all feel nostalgia for the decade in which we were born, and when I was younger (high school, college), that was probably true for me. as well. But eventually, it fell away ...


Do you write long and cut, or short and backfill?

Long and cut. It's too hard for me to fill in once something is already in place.


How do you feel about your Wikipedia entry?

I don't have one.


Lunch with any three people who ever lived; who do you invite?

Tinker to Evers to Chance.


Best piece of advice you ever received?

Someone gets to do it. Why not you?


Disciplined or hot dog?

A little bit of both, I'd say.


Have you ever been defeated by a genre?

Never say never.


Which classic author would you like to see kicked out of the pantheon?

I don't believe in the whole idea of the pantheon, except in the most personal terms. And since my pantheon is my pantheon, everyone who's there belongs.


Are you okay with blood?

As long as it stays in my body, yes.


Who is your imagined audience? Does it at all coincide with the real one?

I don't have one. For me, the idea of audience is paralyzing - I can only write if it's just me and the page (or screen). Audience comes later. Anyway, audience finds you, not the other way around. Why worry about what you can't control?


What country would you want to be exiled in?

I am already exiled in the country where I would want to be exiled: California.


What's your favorite negative emotion?



Is your study neat, or, like John Muir's, is your desk and floor covered in "lateral, medial, and terminal moraines"?

For me, it's terminal moraine ....


What is your go-to shoe?



What's your poison?

Sierra Nevada, Jameson's Irish Whiskey, and some other stuff I probably shouldn't name.


What's your problem?

More than anything, I suppose, I'm my own problem, although I don't always see it that way.


Title of the book you're probably never going to write, but would kind of like to get around to?

Living at the End of the World.


What are you so afraid of?

Right now, I'm kind of worried about Rick Santorum, but most of the time, it's death.


How long can you go without putting paw to keyboard?

It depends on whether I'm working on something. If so, then it's a pretty constant activity. If not, then I can go days.


Do you require a high thread count?



Who reads you first?  

The lovely Rae.


Sexy and dangerous, or brilliant and kind?

Why can't I be all four?


What character or story haunts you?

Too many to name here. But I've never forgotten the five year old girl on acid in Joan Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," and the way no one but Didion seemed to find anything odd or tragic about it.


Does plot matter?

Yes, but only to a point. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," Didion writes. But then she offers the corollary: "Or at least we do for a while."


Does age matter? 



Do you prefer to write standing, or must you lie prone in a field of dandelions with a steno pad and a good pen? Or what?

At a desk, or in bed.


Who is the author you'd most like to impersonate online?

Myself. Oh, wait, I already do.


Is there a literary community?

It is so if you think it's so.


What's the question or questions we should have asked, had we known?

Who? What? When? Where? Why?