What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
I absolutely loved the poetry collection “Your Face, My Flag” from Julian Gewirtz. Beautiful, subtle poems about art, travel, love, and the distances we try to cross.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
Anna Karenina. It is incredible!
Do you re-read books And if yes, what was your last re-read?
Yes, I just re-read Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts — as a queer person about to have my first baby (exactly the subject matter in the book), it felt so different now from when I read it in my early 20s.
What are your go-to genres?
I love literary fiction in general—I’m always attracted to authors who pay a lot of attention to their sentences and figurative language.
What is your favorite childhood book?
“The Daydreamer” by Ian McEwan. Or “Holes” by Louis Sachar. Such sophisticated and mysterious moods and settings in those books.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
I’m currently reading Banyan Moon by Thao Thai and The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst. I’m also dipping into Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson and All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. I love to read a lot of things at once.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
Dogear and bookmark and underline and put brackets in the margins. When I return to books I’ve read before, I’m always glad to see an underline or bracket—I keep it minimal, but like to remember what stuck out to me.
What is your ideal reading setting?
Definitely bed. I love to lie down. But I probably read even more on my NYC subway commutes.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
I grew up going to The Regulator, in downtown Durham, NC. I did a reading there for a children’s book contest when I was 13, and then got to go back at 29 to read my debut novel.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I remember reading a short story to my fourth-grade class. The short story was called “Vision Fantasy” and, in a few paragraphs, covered the final moments in the life of a housecat, and then its return as a ghost. I remember the class being completely, unprecedentedly silent after I finished reading it. I honestly don’t know if they were just surprised by the direction the story went in and didn’t know how to react, but at the time I was really excited because I felt like I had the power to write something very absorbing.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I went to Virginia Woolf’s last house where she moved during World War II — Monk’s House. I got to look in her little writing cabin in the backyard, her low-ceilinged living room, her bedroom with a neat bed in front of green bookshelves. I also went to the house where her sister lived, Charleston. I loved the way Vanessa Bell and her friends painted everything—tables, lamps, walls.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
In my little writing room, at a desk my friend found years ago by the side of the road. I used to write in coffee shops or around town, but now I prize the silence and privacy.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
99% of the time, exhausts, and 1% of the time, on a magical day of focus, it energizes.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have a full novel draft that I haven’t shown anyone yet (soon, when I feel fully confused and exhausted, I’ll show it to my agent), and a full novel draft from a few years ago that I put in a drawer because no one wanted to publish it.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I barely read the good ones. It’s enough just to know they’re good. The bad ones, I’m liable to read over and over. They’re hard to take, because this is a precarious industry. But I try to tell myself that I have never lost respect for an author because of a review. Bad reviews, mixed reviews, controversy are cool in a way, and anyway part of being a writer, which I am very fortunate to be.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Trust yourself, and persevere. Even if it doesn’t feel right, you are on the right path.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
These days, I’m being pregnant. My baby is due three weeks after the book comes out. So, mostly just trying to heave myself into various stretching positions. (Ever heard of “clamming?”) I also have a full-time job at a policy research organization and I’m not on leave yet. It’s getting pretty chaotic over here.
What are your three favorite things right now?
Blood orange soda with tons of ice, showering, and the cathode ray tube TV (circa 1990s) that my partner Trisha set up for us to watch TV on. Unlike vinyl records, cathode ray tubes have not made a comeback, but why not? The colors are so much brighter and more beautiful than a flatscreen.
What is your favorite travel destination and why?
Cogne in the Italian Alps — a truly lovely part of Italy with incredible glaciated mountains and traditional farms (I worked on one, which was inspiration for my first novel, The Ash Family) with herds of cows and goats wearing bells, and the best cheese you’ve ever had.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
I really love a painkiller — doesn’t have to have alcohol — it’s coconut cream, orange juice, and nutmeg. Not a very traditional pairing with that drink, but my favorite food is kamameshi, Japanese rice cooked in a clay pot — I like it with salmon and salmon roe.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Ovid, Sappho, Shakespeare, Koko the Gorilla, Buzz Aldrin, and my partner Trisha Baga.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
It would be a quiet independent film with lots of long lingering shots and I would be extremely pleased to be played by Elizabeth Olsen.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
Top Chef. I saw Thao Thai filled out this questionnaire and said she’d invite Padma Lakshmi to her dinner party which is a brilliant idea.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
“You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King is the only karaoke song I’ve ever sung in public.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
“Remembrance of Things Past” by Proust. It’s incredibly long and so rich with psychological insight that I would never run out of things to think about.
Last Updated on July 21, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle