At a very early age I knew I wanted to be a writer. At six or seven, I wrote stories about dancing hot dogs (paging Dr. Freud …). For a long time, being a writer meant being a journalist. My parents, both freelance journalists, were anti-models. I saw them as “frustrated writers”; hope deferred maketh the heart sick. They saw themselves the same way. They were always keeping the wolf from the door, if that is the expression, by writing yet another article they didn’t want to write. They worshipped “real writers,” i.e., writers who wrote books. Thomas Wolfe. Saul Bellow. Joan Didion. Joseph Heller. I wanted to write books.
My mom died during my junior year of college. She read a few of my early short stories (e.g., “A Few Words About A Wall”), which she over-praised. My father died a couple of years ago at ninety-eight. I once asked him what he thought of my writing, and he said, “Too bad you didn’t become a pro athlete. You had some physical gifts.” I sent him a galley of my book The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, in which he plays a major role; he sent me back a list of errata.