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Alan LightmanDescribe your latest project.
My new novel, Ghost, explores the nature of the supernatural, the metaphysical experience, and the conflict between science and religion.
David is a person of modest ambitions who works in a bank, lives in a rooming house, enjoys books and quiet walks by the lake. Three months after unexpectedly being fired from his job, he takes a temporary position at a mortuary. And there, sitting alone in the "slumber room" one afternoon at dusk, he sees something that he cannot comprehend, something that no science can explain, something that will force him to question everything he believes in, including himself. After his metaphysical experience, all his relationships change with his estranged wife, his girlfriend, his mother and he grudgingly finds himself at the center of a bitter public controversy over the existence of the supernatural. As David struggles to understand what has happened to him, we embark on a provocative exploration of the delicate divide between the physical world and the spiritual world, between skepticism and faith, between the natural and the supernatural, and between science and religion.
The strangest job I ever had was working in a drive-in movie theater in the late 1960s. It was supposed to be a "family" movie theater, and my job was to walk between the rows of parked cars with a flashlight and identify couples having sex in the cars. When I found couples occupied in that way (instead of watching the movie), I was supposed to ask them to leave the premises.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Why do you write?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
I will recommend five wonderful novels that all begin with a fantastical premise and then explore the consequences of that premise. Some of these books could be put in the category of "magic realism," in which the writer distorts reality in order to see reality more clearly.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
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Alan Lightman is the author of four previous novels, two collections of essays, and several books on science. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Granta, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and Nature, among many other publications. A theoretical physicist as well as a novelist, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, and was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment at MIT in science and in the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.