Here, Alameddine answers a few questions about how he got to where he is today.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. I did many things before concentrating on writing. I was an engineer, a business consultant, a bartender, a painter/artist. I floated around trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.
I started relatively late. I began to write my first novel at the age of 36. I hadn’t written anything before that. I’d been too critical of my writing. To finish my first novel, I had to make an agreement with myself that I wouldn’t criticize what I was writing until I had 50 pages. It worked.
Q. What keeps you continuing to write?
A. What keeps me writing? I’m 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 am still learning (I know, it sounds like a cliché.) I can get better. I can do better. So, I write.
Q. When did you start teaching?
A. I started teaching early, back in graduate school in the early 1980s. I was a teaching assistant for a professor who had to take a leave for illness, and I was assigned the classes – statistics and research methodology, of all things. Since I started writing, I’ve taught sporadically around the world.
Q. How do you feel about being here in person?
A. Love it. The seclusion of the pandemic did a number on me. I’m a homebody by nature, almost reclusive. I went for days without seeing anyone. Yet, even when the quarantine was lifted, I found it difficult to break my habits of avoiding people. Teaching in person is like having a fabulous dessert to break your fast!
Q. Will you be reading from your new book, “The Wrong End of the Telescope”?
A. Yes, I’m looking forward to that. The only reading left that is in person is the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville. The rest have all reverted online (to avoid travel).
Q. What brought you to the U.S., and when was the last time you went back to Beirut?
A. I came to the U.S. to go to school, engineering at UCLA. The civil war in Lebanon had been going on for a few years. I tried moving back to Lebanon a couple of times, but each time I did, the violence would explode. I returned to the U.S. for graduate school in San Francisco and inertia kept me there till this year, when I came to Virginia.
The last time was before the pandemic, January of 2020. Usually, I return to Beirut at least twice a year. My entire family lives there. I hope to go to Beirut for the holidays this year. I need to see my mother.