First Language(s): Spanish
Second Language(s): English, French
Richard Risemberg was born to a Jewish-Italian family in Argentina, and dragged to Los Angeles as a child to escape the fascist regime. He has spent the last few decades exploring the darker corners of the American Dream, and writing essays, poems, and stories about it all.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I read so much, starting at age four, that I can’t really say. The one I remember the most from my early childhood is The Count of Monte Cristo, but I also quite liked a rather indifferent book about early US explorers or perhaps cleaned-up mountain men, called Far Past the Frontier.
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
When I was in twelfth grade, my regular English teacher, a rather harsh woman who was probably alcoholic, fell down her porch and broke her leg. The substitute — young, pretty, and idealistic — set us some creative writing exercises, and I discovered, much to my surprise, that I could write fairly well for that age. Since I’d always loved reading but had never before had any means of self-expression except music, at which I was abominable, I fell as much in love with writing as with reading.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
I engaged in many activities that are considered "thrilling," such as my years immersed in motorcycle culture, which included illegal racing along mountain roads in Southern California et al, plus all the social peculiarities of that world. But the most meaningful act I could fit into this answer was hiking out of the Grand Canyon alone, at night, under a full moon. I did sit on a rattlesnake at one point, which awoke rather irritably, so that was thrilling. But the night apart from that was profound. Like being inside a Bach fugue.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
Never while writing; I love music too much, and it distracts me. I will listen to instrumental music while reading, but not vocal music.
Issue Fall '21