Arts & Culture

In the Beginning

Matt Rothschild, author of Dumbfounded, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Matt’s book tells the story of his humorous childhood hijinks. Just a moment ago, it occurred to me that I was naked and … Read More

By / December 1, 2008

Matt Rothschild, author of Dumbfounded, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Matt’s book tells the story of his humorous childhood hijinks.

Just a moment ago, it occurred to me that I was naked and standing in front of an open door. Now, besides my nine-year-old boxer, I live alone, and while for some living alone might seem an obvious invitation to turn one’s home into a satellite nudist colony, I am not one of these people. Let me tell you, the way that I was raised was not conducive to casual nakedness. In fact, my grandparents (who stepped in to raise me after my own parents refused) were so modest that I would have been more comfortable growing up in Victorian England than in New York’s Upper East Side of the 1980s. So the realization that not only was I naked, but that I was advertising myself like someone looking for trade, surprised me.

This is what happened. Earlier this morning, I went for a run with my dog and came home sweaty. I was in the process of taking off my clothes and piling myself into the shower when I got a text message from a friend suggesting I might want to read an article in the newspaper. Curious, I picked it up and quickly became so engrossed that I forgot what I was supposed to be doing (showering), and I forgot what my body was doing (walking), until I looked up through the open patio door and saw my neighbor waving at me. Fortunately, the newspaper concealed just enough to make the situation only moderately embarrassing. She’s kind of a lush anyway, so there’s a fair chance if she got an early start today she won’t remember any of this.

I don’t tell you any of this to introduce my new alter ego, Nudie Rothschild, nor do I begin my blogging stint on Jewcy with something embarrassing in order to make myself more endearing, though, admittedly, that’s something I would do. No, I wanted to tell you about my sojourn into nudity to illustrate why I write. It’s very simple. I write because I can still get so lost in the power of words that I completely forget myself. As a writer, it’s my dream to do that for someone else. I want someone lost in the forest of my words with only my voice as a guide.

In truth, I didn’t set out to be a writer. Sometimes you hear writers talk about teething on pencils instead of ice cubes, and writing before they were talking. That wasn’t me. For me writing was a necessity; it was the only way that I could win praise. By the time I was in high school, I had already been expelled from five different schools (think Holden Caulfieldwith a pronounced Jewfro and an additional seventy-five pounds), and it was obvious that my hard-assed teachers saw me as the vehicle to finally drive them over the edge. So imagine everyone’s surprise when the Fifth Avenue Delinquent (one of my more colorful nicknames) began earning As on papers. Actually, I can credit writing for finally giving me the impetus to turn myself around in school. I remember one particular teacher holding a paper of mine and saying,"Matt, you’re very intelligent, but nobody will ever care if you’re always going to act like a prick." From that point on, any assignment I could do in writing, I wrote.

Still, it wasn’t until I was in college living in San Francisco that I realized my future lay in writing. A friend had come out to visit, and in his haste to make his returning flight, he left a copy of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day in m ycar. I hadn’t read the book, but I had heard of Sedaris. People told me I should read him because we had a similar sense of humor.

Later that night I began reading and quickly lost myself. That was the first time I could remember something like that happening. Sure I had enjoyed books before, but not like this. If a book can do this for me, I thought, this is what I want to do for someone else. Looking back, finding that book was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I had been in college for too long racking up majors and degrees, but nothing affected me like the temptation to reach people through writing. It was after reading Me Talk Pretty One Day and then [an earlier Sedaris book] Naked that the seed for my book Dumbfounded began germinating in the back of my mind.

Having already spilled the beans about why I write, I’ll tell you I have a lot to accomplish this week. In five posts I have to introduce you to me, and hopefully persuade you to give my book a chance. And with so many fantastic books vying for readers right now, that’s going to be a task. But if there’s one thing you need to know about me from the start, it’s that I love a challenge, and-as you can see from the naked anecdote above-I have no shame when it comes to writing.

Matt Rothschild, author of Dumbfounded, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and he’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.

Posts

In The Beginning

people are for sure dancing somewhere with scrolls. My calendar says, and it’s not like I don’t know. In this bar, nobody rolls anything but eyes backwards and the glasses are raised to less transcendental causes. We’re talking Lukacz and … Read More

By / October 1, 2007

people are for sure dancing

somewhere with scrolls. My calendar

says, and it’s not like I don’t know.

In this bar, nobody rolls

anything but eyes backwards

and the glasses are raised to less

transcendental causes. We’re talking

Lukacz and ex-girlfriends. Leo got no

assimilated idea, laughing with disbelief

when I tell him. I come

back to the library, picking up random

books off the Slavic shelf, checking on

all the diligent girls in the lounge.

In Shklovsky’s hands, voices separate

from narratives like neat flesh-colored ribbons

for another few hours. I wonder over

to the subway, returning home long

after bodies rolled up in their blankets.

Dawn’s rubbing hands, ready to crack

dreams. Theirs, in the end, mine –

in the beginning

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