David Joseph is the award-winning author of the short story collection The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories. His writing has been published in The London Magazine, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, DoubleTake Magazine and Rattle. A recipient of the John Henry Hobart Fellowship for Ethics and Social Justice, he has taught at Harvard University and Pepperdine University. He lives in Andalucía, Spain with his wife Karen and their sons Jackson and Cassius.
Q: If you could travel back in time, which of the great writers would you like to meet and why?
A: Probably Raymond Carver. I know he lived life rough for a long time, but I always find something so tender in his writing. There is that quality of complete objectiveness bordering on coldness effortlessly combined with the ability to express such humility and vulnerability. It’s disabling and moving for me to read, and I think an afternoon in a fishing boat or alongside a river with Carver would be pretty special.
Q: Do you have a lucky writing talisman? If so, what is it?
A: My father’s pen.
Q: Is there a book that you keep going back to, and if so, how many times have you read it?
A: Probably The Complete Short Stories or Ernest Hemingway. It never seems to disappoint and, perhaps more importantly, continues to surprise with each reading. I can’t say for certain how many times I’ve read sit cover to cover, but there are individual stories in there I’ve read more than twenty times.
Q: What is the least interesting part of writing for you?
A: This such a good question. I suppose I would have to say stopping for the day. Perhaps ‘least interesting’ isn’t the best way to describe it, but certainly most difficult. There are writers like Hemingway who suggested you should always stop when the iron was hot so you could pick it up the next day in the same vein. But it’s so difficult to stop when the words are flowing. At the same time, coming to a finite conclusion runs the risk of the next day bringing a different mood, vibe, aura or voice to the work. My least favourite part of writing knowing when and where to stop.
Q: If you could teleport yourself anywhere, real or fictional, where would it be and why?
A: Maybe the Mississippi Delta. Just can’t believe so much creativity came out of one, desolate location with such a painful past and uncertain future.
‘Why don’t you paint me?’ she asked. ‘I don’t paint anyone,’ I replied. ‘Actually, I don’t paint at all.’ ‘But you could,’ she remarked. ‘In theory, I suppose. But I’m not any good.’ ‘Do you have to be good?’ she asked. ‘In order to paint someone.’ ‘Well, I’m not sure you have to be good,’ …