is the author of Jim the Boy
, Here We Are in Paradise
, and Somehow Form a Family
. He lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.
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Describe your latest project.
My new book is a novel called The Blue Star. It's either the sequel to Jim the Boy, or the second book in a series of Jim books, depending on whether or not I figure out how to write faster. In this one Jim's in love with a girl he can't have and the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. (My father-in-law once told me he didn't think Jim the Boy had a plot. This one has a plot.)
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain."
How do you relax?
I play golf. It's a narrative sport.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Once, after a girlfriend broke up with me, I drove from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Oxford, Mississippi, to see Faulkner's house and thought about myself in third person.
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
They look like boots, but they're not.
Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Gotta be rock stars. The wildest thing I ever did on tour was eat a fourteen dollar jar of nuts out of the mini bar.
Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
Golf early, play with daughter, Chinese food for lunch, nap with wife, write something good, play with daughter, supper with family, good TV show, go to sleep reading narrative non-fiction about a hurricane or an epidemic.
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
My Favorite Seven Books about Disasters or Epidemics
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
Flu by Gina Kolata
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
F5 by Mark Levine
The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin