Matthew Aaron Goodman’s debut novel Hold Love Strong was published in 2010; he’s also a professor at Hunter College and the coordinator of the New York Juvenile Justice Initiative, which advocates for reform of the youth-court system. Since 2007, he has lived in Crown Heights, which, he writes in an email, “was/is great/changing.” Tonight he reads at his local reading series Franklin Park, a joint-event with PEN American featuring a diverse range of its members.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
The writer Thisbe Nissen once wrote, “Matthew Aaron Goodman writes with tremendous heart…” I’d like this to be true. But I don’t know. All I know is that I try to write with all of my heart, every last ounce of it. But I could be writing with only a sliver of it too.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I’ve been broke and hungry. But a starving artist is the man with an empty stomach writing poetry in the dry dirt of a Syrian refugee camp with his finger because he simply must. I’ve never been such. No artist should ever be.
If you couldn’t express yourself through your writing, what other medium would you pursue?
I do some painting now, and I mess around on the guitar and piano. And I have a trumpet. So I guess, for me, it’s about engaging with as many tools of self expression as possible, not limiting myself or confining myself to a singular definition such as “writer.”
If this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, what would be your ideal fallback?
Whole things never work out. But parts do. So it’s about looking at the important things, and those things are all working out great. I have a beautiful and intelligent wife that I love, a beautiful and intelligent son that I love. I have friends I love. Yesterday, I woke up breathing. Same with this morning. Are you asking if I’m afraid of failing as a writer; or what will I do when I fail at being such? Who’s to say that I haven’t already failed as a writer? Maybe I’m failing right now. I don’t write to have writing work out. That would be naive. I write to work things out, knowing such things are always subject to change. In this way, writing is always working.
What have you experienced recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Small talk, a drink, a cigarette, foreplay, sex. More sex, cuddling, laughing, crying, fighting, more sex. Sleep, breakfast, and then we never see each other again until we bump into each other years later at the very moment we need each other. We might be at the library, or on the street, or sitting beneath a bivouac on a beach in Zanzibar. The location won’t matter, nor will how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. All that will matter is that we’re there together, and immediately upon seeing each other, we begin our love affair all over again.
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