When did you decide to become a writer?

Keith Gessen is editor-in-chief of n+1, a twice-yearly magazine of literature, politics, and culture based in New York City.

Gessen graduated from Harvard College and earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University in 2004. Gessen, who was born in Russia, has written about Russia for The Atlantic and the New York Review of Books.  Gessen has also written about books for magazines including Dissent, Slate, and New York, where he was the regular book critic.

His first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, was published in April 2008.

  • Transcript


Question: When did you decide to become a writer?

Keith Gessen: I guess I’ve always wanted to be one. For a long time, I didn’t know how to go about it. I had no idea. I would sit around- and this is a, certainly- this is in the book. It’s exaggerated in the book, but I spent a lot of time sitting around wondering if I was a writer, wondering if I was an intellectual.

And, you know, it turns out that the way you become an intellectual or a writer is- well, partly by sitting around and wondering if you are, and then, you know, beginning to try to do those things that a writer and intellectual does- reading and writing. And then you- you know, if you stick to it- <laughs> eventually, you know, you’ll either- you’ll become one of those things. You might not be very good at it- the jury is still out on that- but, you know, and one of the things you have to be ready for is that you’re not gonna make any money. So-

Recorded: 3/18/08