Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle
What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. It’s my second Victor LaValle book this year, and it’s astonishing: gripping and sweet and harrowing and funny, and I can’t wait to reread it.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
A Room with a View by EM Forster. I love the movie so I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read the book!
Do you re-read books And if yes, what was your last re-read?
All the time! I find new things every time I reread; I love having more time and space to look at the sentences and storytelling and try to figure out how good books come together. Books are also my security blanket, and I dip into old favorites when I’m stressed. My last reread was The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
What are your go-to genres?
Literary fiction, especially when it puts a twist on something we think we already know—I’m just endlessly delighted and fascinated by all the amazing things novels can do, and so tend to look for books that take things—plot or prose—to the limit. I also love listening to horror audiobooks while gardening.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. It’s the book that made me a writer: my parents gave it to me for my eleventh birthday, and I haven’t left the house without a notebook since.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
My Heart is a Chainsaw (Stephen Graham Jones), Shoot the Moon (Isa Arsén), Greek Lessons Han Kang), The Art of Mystery (Maud Casey), Cryptozoology A to Z (Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark), Eileen (Otessa Moshfegh – another favorite reread), and The Encyclopedia of Country Living (Carla Emery), currently open to the entry on growing hazelnuts.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
Bookmark to keep my place, with occasional tiny dogears at the bottom of VIPs (Very Important Pages); however, the latter must be used sparingly if it’s to retain its power.
What is your ideal reading setting?
Outside, sitting up in a hammock, listening to the wind in the trees.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
McNally Jackson in lower Manhattan. I’ve been going there for 15 years, and have found so many treasures—especially in translation—browsing their fiction shelves.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Fortunately, I don’t remember the first time; unfortunately, that’s because I have a long history of putting my foot in my mouth and watching people’s eyes widen in unintended horror at whatever the hell I just said without thinking. A lesson I just can’t seem to learn is that the words that are popcorning around in my brain, tussling like weasels, aren’t just a game—they achieve new and unexpected power once they’re out of my mouth.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Like all writers, I adore libraries, and I always seek them out when traveling. The most beautiful one I’ve ever been to is the Szabo Ervin Library in Budapest, where I spent an afternoon writing postcards to all my friends; the one where I’ve gotten the most work done is the New York Public Library (yes, the one from Ghostbusters).
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
Mostly my desk in my office, but I’m a restless spirit, so I also like to wander around the house and/or yard, laptop in hand, plunking down wherever to write a few paragraphs.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I want to say exhaust because I love wearing out my brain. But it takes at least 5,000 words in one sitting to do so, and I just don’t have the endurance to do that every day (yet). Instead, most of the time it energizes me; writing empties out space in my imagination where new ideas can well up.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I don’t have any that are half-finished, but this current hard drive has at least seven that are half-started—does that count?
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. I’m new at this, so I try to just bask in the good ones and ignore the bad ones. The book is already written, so there’s nothing I can do if it doesn’t work for someone, but it does make me genuinely happy when people connect with my work and feel seen by it.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just keep reading, kid. You’ll see.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Talking to my dog Rosie, cooking, or puttering on one of the forty or so DIY projects I’ve got going on in my house and garden.
What are your three favorite things right now?
My stretchy cowboy-print dress, a hand-me-down from a dear friend; my hiking hat, because I sunburn easily; my grid-print Moleskine notebook, a perpetual favorite.
What is your favorite travel destination and why?
The woods. I haven’t done nearly enough of it, but I love camping. It’s the air—I call it ‘tree air’—the way that everything just feels so alive and fresh and sure of itself, and wind through tree branches is my favorite sound in the whole world.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
Dim sum. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’ve had some truly excellent dim sum and it never fails to knock my socks off. For drinks, before 5pm: cold brew with oat milk. After 5pm: bourbon on the rocks.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Whichever six of my closest friends are available that night. I’ve been blessed with some really remarkable, long-running friendships with some truly extraordinary, loving people. We’re scattered to the four winds now as we all pursue our destinies, so I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than bring my nearest and dearest together at the same table.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
I’ve always thought I’d be a great Wes Anderson heroine. I’m bookish, a little uptight, and find direct, unadorned statements of feeling refreshing; I also love typewriters, vintage accessories, and wearing the same thing every day. I think Saoirse Ronan is the right mix of bright-eyed and serious to play a delightful Young Claudia.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
Yellowjackets. I just got into it and I’m so glad I was late to the party because I got to cannonball the whole thing in, like, a week and a half.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
Oh man, I love karaoke. My go-to songs are “Just What I Needed” by The Cars and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
Moby-Dick. It’s got everything.