Chad Harbach quotes:

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  • I mean, first, almost all writers these days teach because they don't make enough money publishing to live on, to support themselves - people like Tobias Wolff, Anne Beattie, Amy Hempel, Stuart Dybek; a lot of short story writers, for one thing.

  • Baseball is a team game but, at the same time, it's a very lonely game: unlike in soccer or basketball, where players roam around, in baseball everyone has their little plot of the field to tend. When the action comes to you, the spotlight is on you but no one can help you.

  • Writing on a computer feels like a recipe for writer's block. I can type so fast that I run out of thoughts, and then I sit there and look at the words on the screen, and move them around, and never get anywhere. Whereas in a notebook I just keep plodding along, slowly, accumulating sentences, sometimes even surprising myself.

  • You know, it's sort of common wisdom among New York publishers that short story collections don't make money.

  • I play American football every Saturday, which I find calming.

  • Every dude in your high school wasn't striving to be the best poet because then he'd get all the girls, right? But you could imagine a society in which that were the case.

  • There are no whys in a person's life, and very few hows. In the end, in search of useful wisdom, you could only come back to the most hackneyed concepts, like kindness, forbearance, infinite patience. Solomon and Lincoln: This too shall pass. Damn right it will. Or Chekhov: Nothing passes. Equally true.

  • I think people have the wrong idea of 'Moby Dick' as this somber, boring thing.

  • When I write for 'n+1,' I begin by doing a lot of reading, to try to convince myself I'm not stupid. Then I scribble down a paragraph here, a paragraph there, when a notion strikes. Then I see if I can arrange those notions in a way that yields an argument.

  • American history and the history of baseball are bound up together: our racial politics can be described and traced through it.

  • You know, in the old days, you might be able to slowly sort of build an audience for your work by publishing two, three novels before you hit it big. You know, now, there's much more of an emphasis in the publishing houses on making sure that every book makes money.

  • It's quite a feeling to finish something you have been 10 years beholden to and to have a clean slate.

  • I was a ballplayer, but only for a limited time. I grew up playing in Wisconsin. It's a very sports-centric part of the country that I grew up in and I played a lot of sports, but baseball first and foremost. I played through high school. I was a middle-infielder.

  • Fiction and nonfiction, for me, involve very different processes.

  • Heat radiated off Henry's face. Salty snot ran down his upper lip. A majestic fart propelled him to the top of Section 12, just at the springing of the stadium's curve. He slapped the sign as if high-fiving a teammate. It gave back a game shudder. He was crusing now, darkness be damned, stripping off his sweatshirt and his long underwear top without breaking stride.

  • I've been a Brewers fan since birth.

  • People thought becoming an adult meant that all your acts had consequences; in fact it was just the opposite.

  • Pella felt relieved to sit across from someone who was willing to act so unreservedly glum in her presence, as if she weren't there. David never did that--David's eyes were always right on her, probing, admiring, assessing, enjoying. That was what he called love.

  • I feel like every time I start up, it's like a truck you have to get into 15th gear, so you very solely crank into that mental space where you feel really immersed in the world of the book and then you can just kind of go. But there's just that few days of frustration to get to that point.

  • To my parents, writing seemed precarious and not the best idea.

  • He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story.

  • It was strange the way he loved her; a side long and almost casual love, as if loving her were simply a matter of course, too natural to mention.

  • Each of us, deep down, believes that the whole world issues from his own precious body, like images projected from a tiny slide onto an earth-sized screen. And then, deeper down, each of us knows he's wrong.

  • I've earned my living in all sorts of terrible ways - as a janitor, a copy editor, a psychotherapist.

  • In fact, there's a lot to legitimately hate about pro sports and the way they are conducted.

  • I'm just kind of really interested in athletes as artists of a pretty serious variety and people who devote themselves to what they do in a really incredible way.

  • There are things you do when you're writing that are so fun to do it's almost like they're private jokes that are amusing to you but no one else is going to enjoy them nearly as much and you worry you're going to have to take them out in the end.

  • You don't have to even see the common man anymore if you don't want to! Only through the telescope on your yacht.

  • But baseball was different... You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you f****d up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error, but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see? ... You could only try so hard not to try too hard before you were right back around to trying too hard. And trying hard, as everyone told him, was wrong, all wrong.

  • In fact, theres a lot to legitimately hate about pro sports and the way they are conducted.

  • There are three stages: Thoughtless being. Thought. Return to thoughtless being.

  • It's very hard right now to be a pro sports fan. The economics of this stuff is abysmal.

  • ... people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering.

  • The novel has always been the form that incorporates other forms. For me, it has always been the ultimate medium.

  • Most writers, most books, you have no idea whether it was a dollar or a million dollars.

  • For many years I didn't have health insurance.

  • I tended to write the book in these bursts of two or three months at a time. So I would know, or at least feel securely, that for the next few months I was at least going to have a few hours a day.

  • Tall people have a real advantage in the world.

  • Somehow, you can achieve a directness in the novel that you can't get anywhere else.

  • It remained an open question, how much sympathy love could stand.

  • You are skilled. I exhort you.

  • Other things awaited. It was good to be young and to know it for once. So much unfolding to do.

  • But people didn't forgive you for doing what felt right-that was the last thing they forgave you for.

  • For me, the process always has to be pretty intense. I could never write just two or three days a week. It had to be every day.

  • The Human Condition being, basically, that we‚??re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.

  • I feel like every time I start up, it's like a truck you have to get into 15th gear, so you very solely crank into that mental space where you feel really immersed in the world of the book and then you can just kind of go.

  • Another older writer that had a huge influence on me is Chekhov. More contemporarily, it's hard to say.

  • I do think that sports is really rich dramatically that, and this is kind of a self-serving thing to say, but I wonder why there aren't more, better sports novels.

  • My favorite sports novel is End Zone by Delillo. It's such a great looking book too, the black cover with the football player on it. It's just a fantastic little book.

  • I think that it is very interesting to write about a team because a team is a group of people who work in very close quarters and have very intense relationships so - in my days of playing sports, I was very rarely on a team that did not have it's own peculiar dynamic, and you wind up having very intense feelings for good and for bad about these people with whom you spend many hours a day.

  • The idea of the writer who writes nineteen novels, with various ups and downs and levels of experimentation, isn't around so much now. There's a focus, I think, on fewer books, with more pressure on each book to succeed. With that there comes, I think, a certain pressure towards shapeliness in fiction. Towards neatness. And I think writers feel that, and it can effect how they write.

  • The challenge for any fiction writer is that your job involves simply sitting at a desk for a very, very long time.

  • Most great books have been about striving in some sense. In a sense, money is the great topic of the novel. You couldn't necessarily say that about poetry.

  • Poetry might be more about the eternal verities, the essence of the human soul, and - although it's reductive to say so - fiction has perhaps been more about the differences between the unconstrained world of the imagination and the realities you run into, day-to-day, when you're riding your donkey.

  • I think the MFA programs have had a real effect on the state of American fiction, but I don't think it's a question of "this is written by someone with an MFA, and this isn't." I challenge anyone to identify a book in that way. It's totally impossible.

  • The effects of MFA programs, and the rise of creative writing instruction more generally, are far more diffuse than people think. Even if you're a writer who has avoided institutions your whole life, you're still going to be reading a lot of writers who have MFAs, and are affiliated with universities.

  • If you're part of any kind of writerly community, some of those people will have gone through MFA programs, and their thinking leaks into yours. So whatever changes MFAs have made to the culture, it's to the culture as a whole. It can't be pinned down to individual books in a way that some people would like to do.

  • A lot of writers choose to live in New York, partly because of the literary culture here, and partly because Brooklyn's a pretty nice place to live. And a lot of writers who might not geographically reside in New York still point their ambitions towards New York in some sense.

  • Getting your foot in the door with some publishing people can be important when you're starting out as a writer, but it's also not enough to get you where you need to be.

  • It is no fun at all to have been writing a book for seven or so years, especially when you've never published anything before.

  • A lot of my close friends had tolerantly washed their hands of the whole idea of me writing a book. They had said to themselves, "I don't know what he's doing."

  • I sold a book six years after I left an MFA program. In between, there was a lot of endurance of poverty and a lot of fighting off doubt. It's all a part of the process of being or becoming a writer.

  • Looking at and shaping your own work is a very intuitive process. You see something you've written in your notebook. It's there on the page and either feels right or it doesn't, and it's hard sometimes to go beyond that and discover why it feels that way.

  • Writers have the purity of their art and what they want to achieve with that, and that this purity is bound up with the messy material conditions of trying to make a living while doing that work.

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