The Days of Yore: Sam Lipsyte, Gary Shteyngart and Other Writers Before They Were Famous

The Days of Yore: Sam Lipsyte, Gary Shteyngart and Other Writers Before They Were Famous The Book Bench alerts us to a new website called The Days of Yore that interviews successful artists about their time before the glory and pounds of gold. The site is bare bones, but features interviews with the likes of Dave Hill, Anne Bogart, Jan Maxwell and TFT favorites Sam Lipsyte and Gary Shteyngart. I also love the idea. Writers and other artists can always use a little hope. Hearing how others struggled can make the crushing hopelessness of our lonely existence slightly more palatable. Plus, some of these guys and gals give great interviews.

Here is Lipsyte describing other things he thought about doing:

Other things I wanted to be included a pro quarterback, a nameless drifter in the French Foreign Legion, and a European film director. Later I fronted an art rock band. But I was always drawn back to writing, to playing with language, telling stories. I wanted to write because I loved to read, and I wanted to do what the writers of those books had done. I wrote a story when I was fifteen about a middle-aged man having a terrible divorce and recalling his days as high school shot put champion. I actually was a high school shot-putter so I didn’t have to research that part. The rest I had no handle on whatsoever. It was utter crap, but I was hooked.

We also learn what his grocery list was in the lean years:

Peanut butter, canned tomatoes, eggs, bread, coffee, milk, cigarettes.

Another interview to check out is Gary Shteyngart, who tells us:

I started writing when I was a little kid, when I was four or five. My grandmother hired me. She was a journalist in Leningrad and she would pay me in little pieces of Soviet cheese for every page I wrote. So I started writing this story about Lenin and a magical Goose. They banded together and tried to forge a Soviet revolution in Finland, I think it was.

And later on, before publishing his first novel:

What were you spending your money on at the time?

Beer. Wine. Vodka. It was weird. I was really poor, but every once in a while I would get money together and throw a party with caviar and sturgeon and stuff— very Russian to blow it all in one night. I would live in these tiny apartments, 400 or 500 square feet, and I would cram 100 people in there. It was out of control. I had a fire escape and access to a roof at one point. The apartments were on the Lower East Side. In Park Slope before it was invaded by children. I helped to gentrify Fort Greene, personally.

Check all the interviews out over at The Days of Yore.

The Days of Yore: Sam Lipsyte, Gary Shteyngart and Other Writers Before They Were Famous

Lincoln Michel keeps a personal blog at and tweets @TheLincoln. His work appears or is forthcoming in Tin House, Oxford American, The Believer, NOON, Bookforum, and elsewhere. He is more


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