‘I Have No Friends: I Make My Mind My Friend.‘
7 questions with literary agent and novelist Keith Korman who applies a Samurai writing method to his contributions at Liberty Island.
April 1, 2014 - 12:30 pm
Keith Korman is an American literary agent and novelist. Over the years he has represented many nationally known clients through his family’s agency, Raines & Raines. The agency is most noted for representing the books: The Detective, Deliverance, Die Hard, Cruising, My Dog Skip, How to Eat Fried Worms and Forrest Gump. Korman’s novels include Secret Dreams, Banquo’s Ghosts (with Rich Lowry), and End Time (Tor/Macmillan, March 2015).
1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?
Authors, some you may not have heard of:
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Logan’s Run by Nolan & Johnson
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
And some you have, Orwell, HG Wells, Jules Verne, Larry Niven, B Traven…
2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?
In constant rebellion against the Thought Police of the Mainstream Media — if the Conservative Creative gang of misfits ever becomes authoritarian — I’ll be in rebellion against them too.
3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?
B Traven, literary agent/spy/novelist — God, what a role model!
Great thinkers and philosophers never penetrated my brain as deeply as lines from movies seem to have done, all of these to one degree or another show the war for Man’s Soul, an endless, eternal battle:
Lord Jim (movie)
Jack Hawkins as Marlow:
[Narrating] One hope kept Jim going – a hope common to most men. Rich or poor, strong or weak, who among us has not begged God for a second chance?
The quote that opens and closes the movie, “Last night I dreamed a deadly dream, beyond the Isle of Sky, I saw a dead man win a fight, and I think that man was I” is from the song “The Battle of Otterburn,” Child Ballad #161 and appears in a manuscript dated circa 1550. The original reads, “But I hae (have) dreamed a dreary dream, Beyond the Isle of Skye; I saw a dead man win a fight, And I think that man was I.”
Closing Narration: Man looks up at the stars, and dreams his futile dreams. Child of the universe, his toys are ignorance, his games, fantasy. Not even master of his own fate, it is the Devil’s Puppeteer who stretches his fingers to answer the question: What will happen next?
See on Wikipedia here.
Closing Narration: The Inheritors are on their way. In a universe of billions of stars, there are places of love and happiness. On this Earth, in this spot, magic settled for a moment. Wonder touched a few lives, and a few odd pieces fell smoothly into the jigsaw of Creation.
4. Where are you from/currently reside?
I’m a Manhattan refugee, got out during the crack epidemic of the Dinkins’ era, breathed the fresh air of Dutchess County, and never looked back. It used to be said of European Reformation Cities that, “Town Air is Free Air” – but that’s simply no longer true under the rise of Blue City States Uber Alles.
I live with my wife and two dogs and two horses in Millbrook, and sometimes sell my homegrown gladiolus in the local flower shop.
5. What are your writing goals?
My writing goals can be summed up by this anonymous Samurai poem from the 14th Century:
I have no parents: I make the heaven and earth my parents.
I have no home: I make awareness my home.
I have no life and death: I make the tides of breathing my life and death.
I have no divine powers: I make honesty my divine power.
I have no means: I make understanding my means.
I have no magic secrets: I make character my magic secret.
I have no body: I make endurance my body.
I have no eyes: I make the flash of lightning my eyes.
I have no ears: I make sensibility my ears.
I have no limbs: I make promptness my limbs.
I have no strategy: I make “unshadowed by thought” my strategy.
I have no design: I make “seizing opportunity by the forelock” my design.
I have no miracles: I make right action my miracle.
I have no principles: I make adaptability to all circumstances my principle.
I have no tactics: I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.
I have no talent: I make ready wit my talent.
I have no friends: I make my mind my friend.
I have no enemy: I make carelessness my enemy.
I have no armor: I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.
I have no castle: I make immovable mind my castle.
I have no sword: I make absence of self my sword.
6. Where can people find/follow you online?
You can find me at Amazon, FB and Linkdin.
7. Hobbies and interests?
My hobbies boil down to a question of character: Some Day I will be the Man my Dogs think I am.
An Excerpt from Keith Korman’s “The Son of San Idro“
I had wandered far into southern Mexico until the village of San Idro rose out of a hovering haze. A sleepy town in the hilly uplands of Oaxaca that the tourists never marked on their guidebooks and the drug cartels wouldn’t have bothered over, not even for free samples from the local talent. A post office but spotty cell service. A white stucco church with a bell tower. A decent cantina, and the only place with Wi-Fi, while Radio La Comadre out of Orizaba–pronounced O-reet-zaaaaaaaaah-ba–trickled from a speaker in the corner. Outside, stray goats wandered over small farms, and pecking chickens strutted in the street.
A good enough place to finish the book. My agent had gotten me a six month extension, God bless her, now halfway gone. If I couldn’t finish it here…
Perish the thought. No choice.
Even the town’s name wasn’t complete. San Idro. There were twenty places in Mexico named after San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers and day laborers–plenty of those south of the border. But San Idro couldn’t even afford the extra “si,” the secret “yes” inside Isidro to make the peasants sainted.
A typo of a town.
Rocky fields lay across a plain and a river below ended in the swampy delta of a muddy lake. The burros plodded sadly before my veranda, no tractors in the fields. I wrote, ignoring them. Ate at the cantina and listened to the radio in the background. Drank mescal and sucked on limes. Then just sugared lime juice on ice. In two months I was ready to leave.
It was then I met the crocodile.
Almost every day I went down to the shallow river, casting out a fishing line and bringing a few pages to polish as the cork bobbed. Near my shady tree slept the carved ruins of a temple. A huge stone face gazed with all-knowing calm over the slow water and into eternity, limestone torn from some forgotten mountain. The nameless god. You saw the same almond eyes and generous lips in the village today. Tangled vines crawled across the placid face making the seamless brow seem thoughtful.
As the afternoon grew old, a boy riding a burro lazily made his way along the far bank, not twenty yards off. He waved to me and I waved back. It was then that the crocodile raised its head out of a lush corner of the bank, where it had been basking in the sun–totally camouflaged in plain sight. The dragon was broad and slow and stupid. With red glass eyes which thought little and felt less.
The burro snorted as the boy dug in his heels and flicked his switch. But instead of trotting off, the burro turned towards the water. The crocodile nodded its leathery head this way and that as if pondering which one of us to take. The fool with the fishing pole or the kid on the donkey. Without any presence of mind, except for my own worthless skin, I scrambled up the ruined temple and clung to the stone face. Feet entwined in vines and my eyes sprang tears like a child clutching its mother’s throat. I had idiotically brought the fishing pole with me and threw it away in disgust.
This left only the boy on the burro across the stream. The crocodile smiled, made his decision and splashed into the water, paddled like mad and waddled with stunning speed up the bank. The boy’s face turned a sort of milky yellow. He frantically tried to spur the balky burro along. Useless as usual, I clung to my perch, gutlessly staring, wishing I could only close my eyes.
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image illustration courtesy shutterstock / rudall30