Tell us about Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise.
Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise is a tour de force by my late husband, Oscar Hijuelos. The novel, at its core, is about the vanity of fame and the mystery of time. It showcases the transformative power of love by telling a story about the historically true friendship between Mark Twain and Henry Morton Stanley. Stanley's wife, Dorothy Tennant, acts as a pendulum between these two Victorian giants. She amplifies their personae and their passions.
As for future projects of my own, I am writing a memoir of my life with Oscar.
What scares you the most as a writer?
That I will end up caring about the critics' reviews — good or bad — when I know I should not. Reviews are just opinions, not the gospel.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"In this world you must be a bit too kind in order to be kind enough."
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
My sister's two French bulldogs, Gabs and Pips, have stolen my heart. I adore them.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
Years ago, after I published the poetry collection Cool Salsa, I received a letter from an ex-gang member. He told me that my book had such a powerful influence on him that it helped him to leave his gang in New Mexico and start a whole new, healthy life. Inside the letter was a poem that he had written in response to one of the poems I included in the anthology. He shared it with me as a token of his appreciation.
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
I experienced absolute happiness with my husband whenever we were "visiting writers" at the American Academy in Rome. We went there fairly often over two decades. Bliss.
How do you relax?
I like to go to the park in front of my home to watch children play.
Describe the best meal of your life.
Oscar and I traveled the world. Our many sojourns provided us with opportunities to eat a lot of great food, whether the tagines of Fez or the yakitori of Tokyo. But one meal stands out among all the fantastic repasts we enjoyed. We were staying at the Arundell Arms Hotel in Dartmoor, England. One night Oscar ordered steak and I ordered salmon. Both were locally sourced. The look on Oscar's face as he ate his steak made me stop eating for a while. He said, "This is the best beef I have ever tasted in my life, Lori. I can cut it with my fork, just like butter." His absolute enjoyment of that dish made it the best dinner of my life.
Six Great Books Describing Food, Cooking, and Eating
Among the books that I used to teach a course on literature and food at Duke University, the following were particular favorites of my students.
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichel
Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin
The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop
My Life in France by Julia Child
Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Lori Hijuelos is the bestselling author of 16 books, including Moccasin Thunder and Cool Salsa.
Oscar Hijuelos (1951-2013) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and recipient of the Rome Prize. He also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His nine novels have been translated into more than 30 languages.