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Powell's Q&A

A. M. Homes

Describe your latest project.
For me, fiction always begins with ideas, concepts that I'm interested in exploring. In working on the new novel, This Book Will Save Your Life, I was and am interested in how we as a society are simultaneously overly connected — between our cell phones, palm pilots, and GPS systems — and disconnected at the same time — we live far from our families and often live in a somewhat emotionally isolated space.

This Book Will Save Your Life is a novel about transformation, about the fact that in order to survive we must accept, and in some way embrace, our interdependence. We have lost sight of the ways in which we need each other -- so the book is about reconnection, forging links, reaching out past some boundaries and finding what's there. In some ways it is a book about social responsibility and about one man's story of waking up from being functionally dead and the pain and difficulty and ultimately joy in being alive.

  1. This Book Will Save Your Life: A Novel
    $7.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

  2. Music for Torching
    $7.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Music for Torching

    A. M. Homes

  3. Safety of Objects
    $5.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Safety of Objects

    A M Homes

  4. Things You Should Know: A Collection of Stories
    $6.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

  5. Los Angeles (National Geographic Directions)
    $18.75 New Hardcover add to wishlist

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
A. M. Homes: The Little Engine That Could, or the Little Engine That Tried Very Hard.

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
Well, I know he's very preoccupied and now he's well into middle age, but the fact is we've all had a crush on Holden Caulfield for years. And, to be honest, I'd go out once with Humbert Humbert just to see what he was like in person. I suspect he'd be a rather mean date. Who else?... Hmm...

If you could choose any story to live in, what story would that be? Why?
The Jabberwocky, because I love the phrase "Oh frabjous day...."

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
I love Richard Yates, some of my favorite books of his are out of print — but, of what is available, I adore The Easter Parade and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false. Why, or not?
True and false. I am good at making up stories, at drawing characters, creating people who never existed and making them seem entirely real. But if I have to lie about something that really happened, I always fail. I'm by nature truth obsessed, whether that means factual truth — as in this is what happened — or emotional truth — which is, for me, often the underlying subject matter of the fiction; I can't and don't want to escape it.

What is your favorite literary first line?
"Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark," from John Cheever's Bullet Park. For years I've wondered about the placement of the word "then." What does it mean? Why is it there?

What section of the newspaper do you read first?
Being that I'm thoroughly ADD and distracted, I read all sections at once, which means I look at the overall paper — spread it all out and then dive in here and there, randomly and enthusiastically.

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
Familiarity, and I love ones that I can just push my foot into and don't have to untie. But better yet, BAREFOOT... I think best without shoes.

What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, what sign would you change to and why?
I'm a Sagittarius and I like it. Despite the fact that I have the all the classic attributes, like putting my foot in my mouth, saying the wrong thing, cracking up when other people are not, and so on, I am by nature pretty open-minded, generous, high-spirited, and enjoy things. I am also easily upset when people behave badly and show signs of competitiveness, greed, and over-consumption.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Rest, a breeze, being by the sea at the end of a day, watching others playing, a simple old-fashioned hot dog cookout, laughing.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
A very cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle, poured over crushed ice with lemon and lime, and a nice slightly melted slab of milk chocolate on the side.

Why do you write?
I can't not write. I've been doing it every day since I was fourteen and basically I don't feel good if I don't write. And, for me, the most important thing I can continue to do while I'm here, is to try and have a good effect on the lives of others, to leave something behind that is essentially a positive... so there's that, too.

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Rock bands -- let's be honest.

What do you dislike most?
Burned things.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
Mark Rothko — if I was a painting I would be a Rothko. He encapsulates the full range, the full spectrum of human emotion and experience in a single canvas, from devastation to exaltation, and it is mind blowing. I also really like Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses and Rachel Whiteread's work — her casting of negative space is to me in some way very similar to the x-ray specs of a novel. I also love Jimi Hendrix — his music is the real thing, pure, heartfelt, and unaffected.

In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
I just hope I did ok, that I improved the situation for someone, that I didn't hurt anyone, and, in my fantasies, that I am remembered for both my work and quality of person. spacer

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