Here Alameddine answers a few questions about how he got where he is today.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. I did many things before focusing on writing. I was an engineer, business consultant, bartender, painter / artist. I was floating around trying to figure out where to be.
I started relatively late. When I was 36 I started writing my first novel. I hadn’t written anything before. I had been too critical of my writing. In order to finish my first novel, I had to agree with myself that I wouldn’t criticize what I was writing until I had 50 pages. It worked.
Q. What makes you continue to write?
A. What makes me write? I am still critical of my work. I keep trying to get better. I sincerely believe that every novel I’ve written was better than the last, and that I’m still learning (I know it sounds like a clichÃ©). I can get better I can do better. So I write.
Q. When did you start teaching?
A. I started teaching early, in the early 1980s in graduate school. I was a teaching assistant to a professor who had to be on leave due to illness, and I was assigned the courses – statistics and research methodology, of all things. Since I started writing, I have taught sporadically all over the world.
Q. How do you feel about being here in person?
A. I love it. The isolation of the pandemic did a lot to me. I’m a couch potato by nature, almost withdrawn. I was out and about for days without seeing anyone. But even after the quarantine was lifted, I found it difficult to break my habit of avoiding people. Teaching in-person is like having a fabulous fast-breaking dessert!
Q. Are you going to read from your new book, The Wrong End of the Telescope?
A. Yes, I’m looking forward to it. The only personal reading is the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville. The rest have all returned online (to avoid travel).
Q. What brought you to the US and when was the last time you went back to Beirut?
A. I came to the United States to go to school and study engineering at UCLA. The civil war in Lebanon lasted for several years. I tried to return to Lebanon a couple of times, but each time the violence exploded. I was returning to the United States to graduate from San Francisco, and my indolence kept me there until that year when I came to Virginia.
The last time was before the pandemic, January 2020. I usually return to Beirut at least twice a year. My whole family lives there. I hope to go to Beirut for the holidays this year. I need to see my mother.