As a teenager, Mark Salzman studied kung fu hoping it would lead him to bravery, wisdom—and dates. Now 35, the Ridgefield, Conn., native is an accomplished martial artist, an amateur cellist and the author of four acclaimed books. But don't ask him how he achieved success. Says Salzman, who lives in Glendale, Calif., with his wife, documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu, 29, and their cats Fog and Smog: "The truth about me is that I always did everything backwards."
In Lost in Place's subtitle you call yourself absurd. Why?
For me this story is about the problem of identity Trying to be a martial arts master was about the farthest thing from my real personality. I've always been a verbal guy who enjoyed storytelling, but my interest in Zen led me to try to be silent. It was so uncomfortable.
Was it difficult for you to write so self-critically?
This was the perfect time for me to tell this story. I'm old enough that I can laugh at my adolescence but not old enough yet that I want to eradicate it entirely from my personal history.
Do your parents like the book?
Once I had a draft done, the first thing I did was give it to them. When they said that they had enjoyed it, I was relieved. If they had been upset by the book, I would have ditched it for now or thought carefully about how I might redo it. I couldn't live with a book that they felt badly about.