Bernard Malamud …

Bernard Malamud 

Bernard_Malamud_portrait

Bernard Malamud (1914 – 1986)

Bernard Malamud was one of the best known American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984  film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel, The Fixer, about anti-Semitism in Tzarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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Malamud believed that self-disipline and being well organised were vital to writing successfully. He told one interviewer:

There are enormously talented people around but the problem is getting organized to use your talents. A lot of people lose it, they just lose it. Life starts turning somersaults over your back and the next thing you know you’re confronting things that seem to you more important than getting organized to do your writing. And if you can’t get organized, then you can kiss your talent goodbye. It happens in so many cases, it’s almost a loss, as though you have a field of flowers and were never able to collect them. [1]

The novelist and short-story writer was, in the words of his biographer, Philip Davis, a “time-haunted man.” Malamud’s daughter remembers him being “absolutely, compulsively prompt” throughout his life, and notes that he could become extremely agitated when made late. This obsessive punctuality served him well as a writer. Although he made his living as a teacher for most of his life, Malamud always found time to write and apparently never lacked for discipline. “Discipline is an ideal for the self,” he once said. “If you have to discipline yourself to achieve art, you discipline yourself.” 

MALAMUD (Copiar)

Malamud began writing seriously in 1940, when he was twenty-six, and soon after landed a job teaching night school in Brooklyn. His classes were from 6:00 until 10:00 in the evening, so he was able to write for five hours during the day, typically between 10:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. with a break at 12:30 to eat lunch, shave, and read for an hour. After eight years of this schedule, Malamud accepted a university teaching position in Oregon, moving there in 1949 with his wife and their young son. At the time, he had yet even to sell a story. But over the next dozen years he wrote four books, thanks in part to a favorable teaching schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were devoted to classes, office hours, and grading papers; Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays Malamud spent on his novels and short stories (“and I sneak parts of Sundays,” he said).

On writing days in Oregon, Malamud rose at 7:30, exercised for ten minutes, ate breakfast, and arrived at his office by 9:00. A full morning of writing usually amounted to only a page, two at best. After lunch, he revised the morning’s output, then returned home around 4:00. A short nap preceded domestic activities: dinner at 6:15, conversation with the family, help with the children’s homework. After the kids went to sleep, Malamud read for three hours–he usually spent half the time on fiction, half on nonfiction connected to his stories and novels–before going to sleep at midnight.

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Although he was a creature of habit, Malamud was wary of placing too much importance on his particular work rituals. He told an interviewer:

There’s no one way—there’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it—and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you. [2]

Sources:
[1] Bernard Malamud, interviewed by Mary Long. Mademoiselle. August 1976
[2] Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

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