Interview with Nowick Gray, Author of My Generation

05 May 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, My Generation?

Fifty years after Woodstock, it’s worth recalling the collective visions that flowered then, and reflecting on what happened to those dreams of a revolutionary or utopian new world. In my own case I followed a spiraling path of lifestyle change that was representative of my generation, yet unique. I hope my story can serve as inspiration for anyone, of any generation today, to realize freedom in making choices that serve their true calling.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

The great writers I discovered in university literature courses showed me the power of expressing, in truth and artful composition, what matters most in the world and in the soul. And my university professors brought brilliance and passion to my appreciation of the literary craft. After that I found in my own written voice a well of knowing that I had no choice but to honor.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Magus by John Fowles. In no particular order, and if you ask me tomorrow I have 20 other contenders to choose from.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would invite George Saunders to expound on his unequaled gift for satire, with its critical yet compassionate portrayal of human nature. How can the lens be so comically colored yet at the same time so objectively clear?

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love the way it taps into a channel, an inner or higher voice beyond conscious intention, that speaks and writes for itself, for me, for what others need to hear. I have learned to trust that channel if I only give it time to surface by priming by pump. Then I get to ride with it, in the same way a musical jam can unfold into shared spontaneous magic.

What is a typical day like for you?

Yoga, coffee, meditation. Then my news feeds, social media, and email, leading into editing work or my current writing project. In the afternoon, a nature outing—at least a brisk walk, or a longer hike or kayak trip, work permitting. In the evening I like most to go out dancing or play hand drums with a variety of musical groups.

What scene in My Generation was your favorite to write?

It’s a passage that didn’t actually make the final cut, because it’s a condensed summary of a whole chapter (published separately as “Youth, 1974”). It was fun to write because it captured the whole zany period of my life in California in my early twenties, swinging between down-and-out blues and sheer synchronistic magic—like dreaming of Allen Ginsberg and meeting him the next day, or being down to my last nickel in Reno before hitting it big on the slots and craps. The segment is told in second- and third-person, a monologue delivered by my long-dead little brother, as arch commentary on my foibles; so that novel device was fun to work with too.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

My favorite, oddly enough, comes from a health book called Sinus Survival, but it has served me well in coping with uncertainty in life at every scale: “Everything is happening in perfect time.” I think that’s an upgrade from mother’s favorite, “Everything happens for the best.” Another revision comes from the Quaker elders I more or less adopted as spiritual parents: “Hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what comes with grace.”

Nowick Gray is the author of the new book My Generation.

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