Describe your latest project.
The Whole World Over is, like so many other novels (certainly the ones I love best), about the search for true love among people old enough to know just how hard and devilish a journey it is yet human enough to fall victim to their vanities, passions, and tenacious longings for the one true soul mate, the perfect family, the happy home. From a less lofty angle, it's the story of four characters and their intertwining lives: Greenie, a pastry chef and devoted mother; her husband, Alan, a psychotherapist facing midlife reckonings; Walter, a gregarious restaurateur in love with an unattainable man; and Saga, a young woman whose life was derailed by a severe injury and who, for the time being, finds her purpose in rescuing and caring for animals. What happens? Well, I like to say that The Whole World Over is a variation on that classic set-up, "A stranger comes to town." In this case the stranger the governor of New Mexico comes to town and orders dessert: a piece of cake made by Greenie, in Walter's Greenwich Village pub. He meets Greenie and offers her a job out west; impulsively, she accepts it, taking along her young son and setting in motion a series of events, encounters, and decisions that ultimately bring the four characters together in a moment of common crisis. And the rumor is true: Fenno McLeod, the hero of my novel Three Junes, is back, on the sidelines, yet his quiet presence also plays a crucial role in the fate of more than one of these people. I was surprised when he showed up; such surprises, I find, are one of the greatest rewards of writing fiction. Another is hearing what readers see in the lives I've created: there, too, I am often delightfully surprised.
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Either Not a Minute Too Soon: How Julia Glass Meandered Uphill and Down, through Privilege and Tragedy and Stubborn Denial, to Find Her One True Calling...; or, if I were the author, Back Off, AARP: I'm Just Gettin' Started!
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
Okay, I have to suggest three. Margot Livesey, and start with The Missing World. John Dufresne: Love Warps the Mind a Little. Peter Cameron: The Weekend. Oops, four: If you haven't read Iris Murdoch's novels, get to it. Start with The Sea, the Sea or The Sandcastle.
What is your favorite literary first line?
"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me," from Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess. Deliciously and brilliantly audacious like everything else about the novel that follows.
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
A candlelit dinner party in my home with all my dearest friends as guests, good simple food in abundance, champagne filling our glasses, cake for dessert, heartfelt laughter all around, my sons running blithely about in their pajamas and then, as the party stretches long past midnight, sleeping soundly and safely upstairs in their beds, even as one of my friends sits down at the piano and the rest of us start singing.
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Colorful garments ball gowns, kimonos, evening pajamas made from yards upon yards of iridescent silk or velvet. I own an unjustifiable number of such outfits and jump at the chance to wear them. Against the etiquette about which I am otherwise all too conscious, I frequently, and unrepentantly, overdress for the occasion.
Why do you write?
I write because I'm in love with language; because I like working for myself, inside my head; and because it's the only way I know to make a stab at answering the never-ending questions of the heart that arise simply from the everyday living of our lives. For good or ill, trying to answer those questions only leads to asking more, so I can't imagine running out of stories.
If you could have been someone else, who would that be, and why?
My own life is wonderful, but if I had to live the life of someone else, I'd gladly choose that of Julia Child or Dr. Seuss, two outrageously original people each of whom fashioned an idiosyncratic wisdom, passion for life, and sense of humor into an art form that anyone and everyone could savor. I'm quite sure that the legacy of the work they did, and the loving spirit with which they did it, will delight, enlighten, and even change the lives of so many people people of all ages far into the future. They also lived long, rich, vigorous lives, perhaps because they put every ounce of their talent and soul into the world around them.