Carole Maso

in Germantown, NY

recorded in Washington, D.C.

 

Carole Maso

My name is Carole Maso and I live in Germantown, New York, which is about two hours north of New York City. I was born in Patterson, New Jersey, which is a great literary touchstone. I was very influenced by William Carlos Williams, the poet of Patterson, and Allen Ginsberg, and actually, Louis Ginsberg, his father, too, so it was a fabulous place to be born, where poets in America were taken seriously. And I could have been delivered by William Carlos Williams, who was a doctor, but he was delivering babies in Rutherford, and I was born in Patterson, so alas [laughs]. I came to the Hudson Valley—I lived in New York City for many many years and adored the city and taught at Columbia University—that was one of my first teaching jobs—and won a very very big prize and have never had any money at all and thought, What am I going to do with this? Because I thought maybe I could move to an inexpensive place and live a long time and write, or maybe, I don’t know. I was very nervous about what to do with the money because I knew I had to do something important with it. And I realized I was so tired of being a vagabond—I had moved many many places over the years, with New York City being my base—and decided, I think the right thing to do is to get a house. [Laughs.] And then a looked at about a 200 mile radius around New York City, where I was teaching at the time, and that was what I did, I put a down payment on a house. And in the beginning I was just there—it’s a country house, it’s very much in the country where bats come and red fox and deer and what have you, and I was very very happy to have a country life and a very urban life simultaneously. But after my daughter was born, I decided that I would live up there full time. So I’ve been there now for 12 years. I also teach at Brown University, so I go back and forth to Providence and teach one semester a year. Providence is one of those places that looms largely in the landscape. My first visiting writer jobs were in the Midwest at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois and I just loved it. I loved the students, I loved the landscape. I had never seen the Midwest before. I doubted whether it existed at all, but there it was. And I was desperate because at the time I was dog sitting and caretaking in broken down villas in the south of France, where I had gotten a residency at an artists’ colony, and I was really at my wit’s end. I had no way of figuring out what I was going to do next, and someone from Normal, Illinois called and said, Would you come here to teach for a year? And I said, Well, I’ve never taught before, I don’t have an MFA, I’ve never been in a writing workshop, and I have my doubts as to whether the Midwest exists at all [laughs]. So there was that. And they said, Please, we really just want you to come. And I said okay, and I got off the plane from France and went to Normal, and I loved it. I met David Foster Wallace there, and they have a great publications center. It’s a really great place. After that, I got a fellowship for a year in Washington DC and taught at George Washington University for a year. So that’s sort of the picture.


The Knox Writers’ House

What’s it like living as a writer in Germantown?


Maso

Well, I’m very much in the country, and I do not drive. So I’m out there, really. Period. I’m just out there on a limb. And it’s wonderful on some level because I’m just in my own world. My daughter comes and goes, she goes to school and she comes home from school, but other than that I’m just there with the beasts and the wind. I’m entirely in my own universe for the months that I don’t teach.

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