Describe your latest book.
My latest book, Blue, Minnesota, is a meditation on boundaries, memory, identity, and family; it explores the liminal places that define us and the inherent sadness of the American Dream. Ultimately, it is a tragic love song to the vast expanse of our inner maps.
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
In fact, my biography is currently being written! The first volume is tentatively titled, Oh, the Soaring Sparrows: A Soliloquy of Loss, Redemption, and Ornithology.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
In my youth I was a magazine model. It was a heady time — I was a golden boy, really, wined and dined and celebrated for my body and face. When I aged out of the industry, I learned quite a bit about myself and physical beauty — that which fades and that which remains unchangeable. My intellect got me through the dark days and self-doubt, and I realized I had more gifts to share with the world.
Describe a recurring dream or nightmare.
I frequently dream that I rule a minor sultanate on an island in the center of a warm, blue ocean. My subjects shower me with gifts of fresh, still-wriggling fish and warm bowls of fresh milk, thick with cream. These dreams are tinged with an existential unease — even though I am all-powerful and beloved, isn't there something more beyond the shores of my small island?
What was your favorite book as a child?
I devoured Shakespeare in grammar school. Coriolanus was my favorite of his works at the time, though now that I've matured I am more partial to Henry IV.
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
I detest writers who don't use the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is the mark of a civilized being, and those who don't use it reveal themselves to have a lower level of intelligence than that of the common field mouse.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Creamy cheeses, steak tartare, and toying with dying rodents.
Why do you write?
The question of "what is life?" is impossible to answer, too vast for the minds of terrestrial carbon-based life forms, and yet it is what propels us all forward: to create and to consume. It is therefore the job of the artist, in this case the writer, to shed tiny pinpricks of light into this dark cave of bewilderment where we all exist together, by fashioning narratives from our experience.
Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
David Attenborough's Life series, most notably "Life of Birds." Anyone who wants to understand their place in the ecology of the world must immerse themselves in the day-to-day lives of their enemies. Also, Attenborough is a true gentleman.
Who do you follow on Twitter and why?
I find Twitter to be a playland of inanity. No real complex thought can ever be described in 140 characters or less! No meaning can be made! That said, Ari Shapiro is a true renaissance man whose astute observations on the world, current events, and classical music make him an iconoclast. If one must follow anyone on Twitter, one must follow Ari Shapiro.
Do you have a favorite font? Does it change depending on the project?
Always Times New Roman. I find those who insist on Helvetica or some such sans serif nonsense to be the types who insist at dinner parties that Lady Gaga has artistic integrity. (When this comes up I always respond: "Who is Lady Gaga?" which I mean both metaphorically and literally.)
Five Books to Be Read While Traveling the Continent by Rail
Blue, Minnesota deals with processes of migration and a deep sense of that enigmatic place that is the United States of America. Because I do not drive, I did my research for this book while traveling via sleeper car across the great and varied country. You will discover that the rhythm of that journey, the thump, thump, thump of the rails, found its way into my prose. For those who wish to retrace Thomas Germaine's American Odyssey but who are not in possession of their own jerry-rigged Cadillac, the only real option is a train car. These five books will inform and elevate the adventure.
1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
2. Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
3. The Dharma Bums Jack Kerouac
4. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
5. Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat by Caroline Alexander