The Apartment by Greg Baxter comes out today. It’s a beautiful, spare, thoughtful debut novel about an ex-military intelligence officer who wanders around a nameless European city in the snow, trying to forget what he saw–and did–in Iraq.
We asked the author one question.
How are you celebrating the US publication of The Apartment?
Greg Baxter: In January, I’ll return to Texas for a few months. This trip isn’t much of a celebration—more like taking an opportunity to skip another winter in Berlin. I plan to hit golf balls at side-of-highway driving ranges between San Antonio and Austin. I don’t go home often, but when I do, I enjoy wearing cowboy boots. I enjoy steak nachos and margaritas. I get to work on my Spanish.
In situations like the present one—when I am asked a question like the present one—I cannot be trusted to answer honestly. I answer seriously, but I subordinate my own voice to the voices of new narrators I am trying to become. I find myself saying things such as ‘I want to hit golf balls’ as experiments—to see whether these utterances might gather around and mold a new character.
But generally—I’m trying to be truthful here—I don’t celebrate publication; I dread it. I’m deeply appreciative to people who might buy the book, I’m grateful to all the people who make the book’s publication a reality, I know that new authors have an obligation to assist publishers, and I accept that a writer requires publication, and a relative degree of success, if that writer hopes to have a life in which there is sufficient time to write. However, an anxiety arises in me over it all. I feel agitated and sick. I tend to contemplate, or obsess over, the disposability of my own life, and the disposability of each achievement in my life, and I grow exceedingly cheerless. I develop regular panic attacks. I get insomnia. I take Zolpidem and Xanax together in order to sleep—and to sleep without dreams. I long for refuge in new writing, though the more I panic, the further I feel from starting anything new. So I try, in every conceivable way, to make publication feel unreal: I do nothing special to mark a new book as an achievement. I keep to strict and immensely dull routines. I stay well away from the Internet. I remind myself that we are past the age of books anyway; that one really ought to feel embarrassed about writing, not proud.
– Brian Hurley