Narrative 10

As we embark on our second decade of publishing Narrative, we have a few burning questions for David Corbett.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

Fiction: Kolya, the grandiloquent libertine-deserter-patriot and aspiring novelist in David Benioff’s City of Thieves.

Real life: right now, it’s Lawrence Okeye, the British Olympian (discus) who, at six-foot-six and 305 pounds, has decided he wants to play American football (for the 49ers). I love rooting for long shots.

2. Your favorite line (that you or someone else wrote)?

For the good are always the merry
Save by an evil chance.

—William Butler Yeats, “The Fiddler of Dooney”

Of my own: “Life is luck and the lucky are scared.”

—From The Devil’s Redhead

Favorite line I ever overheard, from a bartender named Carlos in San Pedro, Belize: “Why worry? The worst is yet to come.”

3. The story, novel, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time?

The Red and the Black, Stendhal

4. Best part of the day?

Morning. It’s when I write.

5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

The dog. Or a joke.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?

Cocktails! (The rest are irrelevant.)

7. What’s your current obsession?

The Tuatha de Danaan, the mythical fourth wave of invaders of Ireland, whom the Milesians (Celts) drove underground into the sidh, or Otherworld.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

Story. Story. Story. (Guess who gave it to me.)

9. (A) What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten, and/or (B) what do you know now you wish you knew then?

(A) The B-side to “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the 13th Floor Elevators.

(B) I wish I’d known then to form a stronger opinion of myself and not bother with the opinions of others so much.

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

I tell my students that in order to understand their characters’ yearning, they must understand their own. And in doing this exercise myself, I’ve found that romantic love, in particular marriage, has provided my life’s happiest moments. I am competitive to a fault and proud, and my career means a great deal to me. I take writing very seriously and love the craft of it, the challenge of it, the mysterious prayer-like devotion it requires. But after losing my closest brother and my wife, both at relatively young ages (thirty-nine and forty-four), I recognize how fleeting our chances are to connect meaningfully with another person, and what a grind life can be without the unique companionship long love affords. I’m lucky. I’ve found someone new to share my life, someone in whose presence I feel relaxed and happy and confidant that things will be okay, until, you know, they’re not. That ain’t no small taters, as Daniel Woodrell might say.