THE author, most recently of the novel : ''The Man Who Saw Everything,'' would like to have a drink with Virginia Woolf: ''She would be allowed to smoke in my home.''

What books are on your nightstand?
''Becoming Beauvoir,'' by Kate Kirkpatrick, ''Attention Seeking,'' by Adam Phillips. ''The Years'' by Annioe Ernaux. In fact Ernaux, who is now 79, would be a good contender for the Nobel Prize.

''The Years'' interests me because it is an autobiography that is not in the first person. Ernaux is more interested in writing a collective history using We, She or They to tell the story of her generation in France. Hard to do, but it works. It's an innovation.

What's the last great book you read?
The trilogy of novels by Richard Cusk : ''Outline,'' ''Transit'' and ''Kudos.'' Conceptually magnificent, these books offer literature something new in thought, expression and structure. Neither kind or cruel. Cusk's female narrator is a massive presence disguised as absence. That is alchemy.

Are there any classic novels that only recently read for the first time?
I'm reading ''Peter Pan'' because I only saw the film. It's as if Lacan had written a novel. It's so weird.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?
No, a great book cannot be badly written. The novels of Simone de Beauvoir, while always interesting tome, mostly dramatize her philosophical arguments via two-dimensional characters whose function is to serve her arguments.

The ideas are great, but not the writing. I didn't get the sense that in her fiction, Beauvoir ever gave up control, or was receptive enough, or open enough to let the writing take over and surprise her.

Why we read is an interesting subject. I read Georges Simenon's books to find out what kind of meal Detective Jules Maigret is going to enjoy next. Please Maigret I say to myself, you have not eaten a tripe sausage for a while - isn't it time?

How have your reading tastes changed?
When mother was dying, my reading tastes flipped overnight from William Burroughs to William Shakespeare. I needed a language that was as big as everything I was feeling.

What subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
Never tell an author what to write about, Last week a taxi driver told me he had a perfect story for me to get my chops into :
''My uncle paints flamingos on all vintage cars and only eats peanuts, now that's a real character for you.''

On the whole, authors have their writerly subjects laid down inside them, waiting to emerge like an antelope from a snail shell.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on great writers and thoughts and personal insights, continues. The World Students Society thanks The New New York Times.


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