James Gering’s Staying Whole While Falling Apart – Q&A
We interviewed Staying Whole While Falling Apart‘s author James Gering to find out how he stays whole while falling apart and more!
Q: Your main protagonist is a character called Aaron Auslander but it’s hard to look past the parallels… are any of these poems based on your own experience?
A: Many poems, yes – we are each great repository of experiences to draw on. The skill lies in converting experiences to art. Sincerity in poems is about emotional truth not literal truth. The writer reflects on his material, finds the fresh angle, and strives for an artistic conversion. Letting ample time pass between a life event and its poetic rendering is important so that artistic judgement is not compromised.
Q: How do you manage to stay whole?
A: By living outside the city, far from the maddening clichés. I live in the Blue Mountains. My backyard is a world heritage wilderness, and after a day’s writing I like to get physical. I run a mountain trail, swim laps, rock climb or ride my mountain bike – something different every day. I wouldn’t like to bore myself or the exercise would fizzle.
I like to find the balance between my imaginative world and the real world. As a writer, there is a real danger of disappearing down an imaginary rabbit hole. Us humans are social creatures with an urge to love and be loved. We also need material for our writing. Hooray for the human canvas and the settings the real world provides.
At the moment I am writing full-time. This can be dangerous in terms of rabbit holes, but I think I have enough hard-won ploys to manage. One ploy is consciously moving between states of intensity and insouciance. Twenty-five years ago I was the intense moth getting singed.
Q: Do you have any advice for readers on how to stay whole while falling apart?
A: Strike a balance between your emotional, intellectual and physical needs. Embrace the natural world, doubly so if you live in a big city. Flora and fauna are a wonderful salve. Additionally, animals are more genuine than us humans will ever be. Remember your childhood and to sometimes see the world through childish eyes for a fresh take. Beware community – it can be two-edged. Only conform to a group sympathetic to your character. Listen to The Sunscreen Song, its sage advice, like doing one thing a day that scares you.
Q: What would you say was the hardest topic to explore and why?
A: It’s tricky to get depresion right on the page – clichés abound and the writing can easily slip into mawkishness or melodrama. You also have to find points of connection to the reader, regardless of whether they have ever been depressed.
Q: What life changing experiences have helped you as an author and how?
A: Learning from my mistakes has been useful. Adversity also – the humility it brings. I came to Australia from South Africa when I was 16 after a family trauma, and I struggled to find my place as a sensitive person with an inquiring mind. Enter poet, John Berryman, stage left. He gave simple advice for metamorphosing into a poet. He said that when you are young, you need to survive a life-threatening trauma, only by a whisker, and then you are in business. I agree. but perhaps there are other ways too. Parenthood was also life-altering for me, so wonderfully enriching. Suddently you are serving others in a loving manner every day, and it opens a treasure box of raw material for stories.
Q: Touching on your Judaism, what do you think are the defining features of Jewish life today and how has it influenced Aaron Auslander’s character?
A: There are many ways to be Jewish – from ultra religious to atheistic, from cultural heritage to Israel, a country that punches well over its weight in many fields of human endeavour, whether technological advances or the embracing of diversity. Few countries in the Middle East have the vision and inclusivity to host the Eurovision song contest.
I like to think that Judaism helped Auslander to develop an inquiring mind, and helped develop his self-deprecatory humour, not to mention his Houdini-like talent for rising above adversity.