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This Ain’t No Mudd Club

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Looking out over those audiences as Ricky Paul, Bogosian saw his future not in the masses but in his peers—not the 40 people spitting on him but the four artist friends in on the joke. Somehow, recognition followed. Is it too much to hope that it might happen again? “When I’m writing, I’m not thinking, what does my editor think, what are millions of people thinking? I’m thinking, what’s Richard Price—a friend of mine—gonna think? What is John Casey gonna think, or Jerry Stahl? Then I get the audience in my mind.”

Of course, Ricky Paul was a mess, and even David Rosenthal, still his publisher, concedes that Bogosian the Novelist is a work-in-progress. “If I thought [Mall] would be the last book he ever wrote, it would have been of less interest to me,” he says. “He’s becoming a novelist.”

Bogosian is already deep into his fourth novel. A detailed map of Turkey stretches across one door in his office; in another room are shelves full of books about the Armenian genocide. As one of the country’s better-known Armenian-Americans, he intends to write the Great Armenian Novel. “I want to fully utilize what’s been happening with new fiction over the last twenty years,” he says excitedly, “whether it’s Sebald or David Foster Wallace, where you can footnote and hang different trajectories into a million different … I don’t tell the story in a linear way. It’s so ambitious. I don’t know if I can fucking do it.”

So far, his two books have sold 25,000 copies, total—disappointing for someone with what publishers call a “platform.” But novels are not plays. Novels last forever. You don’t have to be Philip Roth; you can be Roberto Bolaño. You can die without ever knowing your impact. “I am hanging my emotional well-being on it,” he says. “It’s just that I’m doing it in my own secret way. I think any serious writer feels that no matter what level of success you have in your present work, someday people will really see what’s going on.”


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