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Nov 08, 2006



Sam, it is wonderful to have you drop by for a visit here, and especially so because I found the note you posted here as pleasing to read as your novel, and in fact these paragraphs are a nice taste (a little joke there) of that so-enjoyable meal.

Mr. Savage, I hope you don't mind if I throw some questions about you, because Firmin left me buzzing with several. Here are a few:

1. I gather from your author photo that you may be more mature in years than the average first novelist. Assuming this is correct, what on earth have you been doing with your awesome writing talent all these decades? Why is Firmin your first novel instead of, say, your tenth?

2. You mention above that you don't particularly care for philosophical novels, but I also note that you have studied and, if I remember correctly, taught philosophy. I'd love to hear which classic or contemporary philosophers most excite you and which schools of thought, if any, you tend to favor. I'm guessing you to be a Wittgenstenian, but then I suppose that's generally a safe guess and also I suppose I could be way off. Would love to hear your response on this.

3. This is probably an unfair and tasteless question. But it happens that this is an eventful week in American electoral history, and I was wondering if you felt like presenting a rat's-eye view (or a Sam Savage's-eye view) of current events. I felt there was a political undertone to Firmin's scenes of urban dislocation (oh, I also want to praise Anne's wonderful previous posting on Scollay Square) and so maybe I can be excused for asking this non-literary question. If you don't want to answer, though, I understand.

I could go on but I'd better stop.

Sam Savage

Thanks for the questions, and the praise.

What was I doing all those years? I would like to say, with Firmin, that I was writing novels in my head. That would be true to a degree, as I started a number of them. I think I failed to finish them because I was blinded by an idea of a novel that was not the kind of novel I was ever meant to write. I think it was fundamentally a failure of courage. I wrote of lot of poetry, most of it thankfully lost. I did things, such as fish commercially, print letterpress books, build houses. But I have always thought of myself as a writer. I suppose that Firmin was born in those years. I did, finally, finish a sort of novel prior to Firmin: The Criminal Life of Effie O. This is an illustrated comic novel written in a kind of ragged rhyming verse. It is nothing at all like Firmin.

I studied mostly nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy. I wrote a thesis on Nietzsche. I suppose Heidegger and Wittgenstein are the two philosophers who were most important to me. I don’t read philosophy anymore. I like to think that Wittgenstein showed this fly, at any rate, the way out of the bottle.

I am delighted that we have, yesterday, taken a step towards recovering some of our democracy, such as it was. I thought, at the time of the old antiwar movement, that I could not dislike anyone as much as Nixon. I was wrong. That said, I don’t place huge hopes in the Democratic party. I dislike violence and those who practice it. I think there are, as Camus liked to say, victims and executioners, and one should strive to be on the side of the former. By the way, I graduated from Yale in 1968, at the age of 28 (I dropped out for a few years). One of my classmates was George W. Bush. I either never met him, or I forgot him.

Levi Asher

Thank you for the answers, Sam. I really hope I'll get a chance to read "The Criminal Life of Effie O" or anything else you may choose to publish next.


Thanks, Sam, for your gracious and generous drop in here at the LBC--it's always really thrilling to have authors stop by.

I love the appellations of Reader and Big One.

And I love the book.

If you're still around, I have a completely indulgent question to ask. As a Yalie (PhD, 94), I'd love to hear more about the benefits and scars from your time in New Haven...

Sam Savage

I was at Yale for a long time, eight years from the time I entered as a freshman to the time I graduated, several more years as a graduate student and, briefly, as an instructor. I have never been back. Although I received what people call a first-class education there, I feel that most of what I know today, and value, I learned somewhere else. It was an epoch to leave scars, and it did. I wish I could talk about it more fully, but if I ever began I would not know how to stop. Your choice of the word “scars” makes me think that you will understand. Thank you so much this discussion. The comments from all of you are terrifically heartening.

Bill Ectric

I especially like Sam Savage's comment regarding "the way certain clever figures can morph back and forth between being, say, a picture of a rabbit or a picture of a duck. And though the picture is both things equally, it cannot be both at once".
This "back & forth" concept has pervaded my mind and my work for years. It springs from sub-atomic particles, matter/energy, etc. and culminates in higher thought processes like natural/spiritual.

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jim kacian

this is for sam, should he check in again—i'm delighted to see the moves you've made since your haiku days, and would like to talk with you about them—you probably recall me, i thought you were pretty good even then! congrats! and you can reach me via my website—thanks

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