Raymond McDaniel Recommends...

“If I am too in sync with the present, I can’t write. Or I can write, but I don’t want to, because too great an affinity with the present, of events currently happening, makes me queasy. This isn’t to valorize the past in any way; it’s just an objection to belonging too much to the assumptions of the now. I try to remedy this with strategic alienation. Physical exhaustion helps; I’ll walk twenty miles just to feel a different sort of rhythm, or clean something obsessively. Anything that changes my sense of scale helps: taking macro photos, looking at artifacts that are thousands of years old, thinking about continental drift. Weirdly, this induced estrangement is exactly what I feel when I am compelled by good writing. Recently, it’s what I feel when reading A Separation (Riverhead Books, 2017) by Katie Kitamura, or play dead (Alice James Books, 2016) by francine j. harris, or In the Distance (Coffee House Press, 2017) by Hernan Diaz: the sense that everything but this has fallen away. But I can’t write from the estrangement good writing elicits. I need something material, corporeal, something that either has no mind or has a mind unlike the minds that clutter my daily apprehension of news or media. That difference reminds me that all of this is temporary, and in order to write anything close to what I want to achieve, I need to inhabit that truth.”
—Raymond McDaniel, author of The Cataracts (Coffee House Press, 2018)