The novelist and story writer, whose new book is ''Sleepwalk,'' is not interested in ''books that outline the banalities and humiliations of your middle-class Norwegian life or whatever.''

.- You taught at Oberlin until 2018. What was your favorite book to assign to and discuss with your students?

My favorite thing as a teacher was intuiting which individual book might make a difference to a particular student.

I vividly remember giving my beloved copy of Elizabeth Bowen's '' The Death of the Heart '' to my student Rumaan Alam back in the late 1990s. This was not a book I generally recommend to the average 21-year-old, but it seemed to click with Rumaan, and we spent some very happy times discussing it.

I felt as proud as if I'd set them up for a date!

.- Describe your ideal reading experience

People may hate me for this but some of my favorite reading experiences have been with audiobooks in the car on a long trip. I love that intense feeling of being ''inside a book'' while driving and the way the world of the story subsumes the interstate and the passing towns and it's like dreaming.

.- Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

Anything other than themselves. I love writers like Emily St. John Mandel, Usmaan T. Malik, Mat Johnson, Squoia Nagamatsu, Senjena Sathian - who use some aspects of their own experience to tell a far-out-tale.

I find myself less interested in books that outline the banalties and humiliations of your middle-class Norwegian life or whatever.

.- Like most of your novels, ''Sleepwalk'' has noir elements. Which books got you hooked on crime fiction?

The big ones for me were Ira Levin's '' A Kiss Before Dying '' and Patricia Highsmith's '' The Talented Mr. Ripley. '' Also, of course, the films of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch.

.- What's the most terrifying book you ever read?

Elizabeth Kolbert's ''Field Notes from a Catastrophe : Man, nature and Climate Change.'' My son, an ecologist, says there are far scarier books out there, but Kolbert is about as much as I can handle.

.- What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

When I was in grade school, I got a set of story anthologies for young readers, ''edited'' by Alfred Hitchcock :

''Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbinders in Suspense,'' ''Alfred Hitchcock's Witches Brew'' and Alfred Hitchcock's Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense,'' which introduced me to works by writers such as Muriel Spark, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Tolstoy [!], etc.

I can't believe what they were marketing to kids those days! In any case, those books opened a whole new world to me.

.- Early in your adolescence you struck up a correspondence with the writer Ray Bradbury. How did that influence your path as a reader and writer?

I wouldn't be a writer if it weren't for Ray Bradbury. I wrote to him when I was in seventh grade, and sent him some of my stories, which were basically Bradbury fanfic, and he wrote back with critiques, suggesting that I submit my work to journals and so forth, and introduced me to the idea of becoming a writer.

His kindness and generosity to a young Nebraska nerd still boggles my mind; I can't believe how lucky I was. He transformed my life and gave me a path I couldn't have imagined for myself.

Our relationship changed when I decided to go to college. Bradbury actively disapproved ''what can you learn in college that you can't get from your library? he said - and he worried that it would interfere with my writing.

And it was true. I ended up with a very different sort of mentor - the poet Reginald Gibbons, then editor of TriQuarterly magazine, who would push me towards a more realist, literary style.

My first major short story published was in TQ when I was a senior in college.

I spent a lot of my life trying to find a way to please two dads - Bradbury and Gibbons - and you know what? I think I almost have done it. I am grateful to both of them.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!