is the author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
; Wonder Boys
, which was made into a critically acclaimed film
; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
, which won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; The Final Solution: A Story of Detection
; and The Yiddish Policemen's Union
. He is also the author of two short-story collections and a young adult novel, Summerland
. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
÷ ÷ ÷
Describe your latest project.
Gentlemen of the Road is a short novel of swashbuckling historical adventure set in the medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars. With elephants.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
John Collier, a master of the plotted short story and of astringent yet lyrical English prose; start with his Collected Stories if you can find it, or else Fancies and Goodnights.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"Give me an underground laboratory, half a dozen atom-smashers, and a girl in a diaphanous veil waiting to be turned into a chimpanzee, and I care not who writes the nation's laws."
?S. J. Perelman
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
I visited Vladimir Nabokov's childhood home in St. Petersburg, an experience which felt profound and magical, but it wasn't the sole purpose of the trip, so I guess that doesn't qualify. My dream is someday to make a pilgrimage to the home of Robert E. Howard in Cross Plains, Texas, a place too far from anywhere else to have any other purpose in mind.
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Dim sum at Yank Sing on Front Street in SF.
Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
If by "best" you mean "finest" then it's The Wire, for the ambition and scope and the infinitely careful detail of the writing, for the brilliance of the characterizations, for the endless jam of the dialog. If by "best" you mean "destined to occupy the deepest, most powerful precincts of the heart and to serve as the psychic lattice for all subsequent understanding of life and the universe" then I really have to go with Star Trek.
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
I admire and reverence lone tinkerers, visionary cranks, fever-dream autodidacts: Joseph Cornell, Jack Kirby, Erik Satie.
Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
My favorite is probably John Gruber's Daring Fireball, a well-written, intelligent, and coherently argued blog for fans of Apple, Inc. I also like to check in from time to time with 3 Quarks Daily.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Great Works of Parrot Fiction
In writing the short novel The Final Solution I fulfilled a long-standing ambition to add to the great unrecognized subcanon of fiction about parrots, those mocking subverters of the apparent miracle of human intelligence and all its vanities.
A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
"How Love Came to Professor Gildea" by Robert Hitchens
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
"The Parrot" by Guy de Maupassant