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Powell's Q&A

Marie Brenner

Describe your latest project.
My latest book, Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, took me to my brother's apple orchards in Washington State. Now I am traveling in my imagination and spending as much time as possible in India, where my next novel is set, in the romantic and fascinating 1960s, when everything was so new. I am intrigued by innovation and dreamers who make it happen.

  1. Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found
    $7.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "[An] elegiac memoir....At once comic and tinged with regret." The New Yorker
  2. Great Dames: What I Learned from Older Women
    $13.50 New Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "Vivid, intimate portraits...a splendid tribute to ten of the century's grandest, most powerful women." Us

    "An engrossing introduction to a way of life that's now extinct, for better or for worse." Chicago Sun-Times

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
The Gregarious Hermit. (Thank you to idea pilfer from great Indian author Vikram Seth — his term to describe himself.)

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
Jay Gatsby — maybe I could borrow his sweaters... and then there's the house...

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
You ask this in a year that has produced Bernie Madoff?

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"We tell ourselves stories in order to survive."
Joan Didion

And then there's Bernie Madoff. See above.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
The astonishing Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It transports you to Ethiopia, to India, to a hospital in Queens. I would suggest comparisons to Balzac — it's that good.

Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
Clear skies, inside and out... and being with my daughter anywhere at any time.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
See above.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Great Books on India:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

India: A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul

An Area of Darkness by V. S. Naipaul

The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French
(This biography of Naipaul takes us into his astonishing mind, warts and all.)

Inside the Haveli by Rahma Mehta (An early fictional account of one woman's life — beautifully written by the first woman in India's foreign service.)

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Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair exposé of the tobacco industry was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated film The Insider. She also wrote Great Dames: What I Learned from Older Women.


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