The journalist whose new book is '' The Persuaders, '' once carried V.S. Naipaul up three flights of stairs to a dinner party : '' It was strange and beautiful to carry the man who had taught me to write.

.- What books are on your night stand?

Some time ago, I bought a pair of red, can-shaped Italian night stands with tiny curved drawers.I thought they would lend me glamour. Books fit in or on them, however, so I keep a towering pile on the floor, which, between us, is straining my marriage.

In the pile now are Joan Didion's collected nonfiction, James Baldwin's '' Another Country, '' Svetlana Alexievich's '' Secondhand Time, '' ''Inside U.S.A'' by John Gunther, and - my current focus - John Steinbeck's '' The Grapes of Wrath,'' which I should have read before but I hadn't, probably because it was assigned.

.- What's the last great book you read?

Reading '' The Grapes of Wrath '' offers such a powerful reminder of the way that literature can unabashedly engage in politics at no extra cost to either pursuit.

Steinbeck's lyrical explanation of the way a brutal new capitalism was unfolding makes me think that we need but don't yet have enough such literature for the new capitalist frontier of our own time : the platforms and algorithms of Big Tech.

.- What moves you most in a work of literature?

In my world of narrative nonfiction interiority : the writer's ability to inhabit the character so that it is no longer just the character who is being described from the outside but also the world that is being redescribed through the character's eyes.

Katherine Boo did this so powerfully in her Mumbai masterpiece, '' Behind the Beautiful Forevers.'' I still remember her description, through a low income character's eyes, of walking into a hotel and seeing rich women ''carrying handbags as household shrines.''

There is in that phrase so much labor that has been done to push the writer's experience of the world to the margins and the character's way of seeing to the center.

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc does it in '' The Warmth of Other Suns.''

Of late, we've had an important but also sometimes facile debate about who gets to tell what stories. My answer grows out of reporting like that mentioned above. If you are willing to do the gruelling work to decenter your own way of seeing and bring the other's way of seeing to the fore, then I say : Write about whatever the hell you want.

.- Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

My third book, '' Winners Take All,'' on the billionaire class and its weaponizing of do-gooding to tighten its grip on power, was partly inspired by a fellowship I had at the Aspen Institute.

After the book came out, I was mysteriously disappeared from my fellowship class's online discussion forums and was told my voice would no longer be welcome at the institute.

.- How have your reading tastes changed over time?

When I was starting out, I was hungry to know how the best nonfiction writers did it.

I was an obsessive student of their technique. So I read nonfiction relentlessly and almost exclusively.

I now allow myself more fiction. I probably should have allowed it sooner, but, honestly, I was so afraid of how hard it would be to make it as a writer, and all I wanted was to unlock the formula.

.- You're organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

This is not a hypothetical for me. I once organized a literary dinner party with three writers, dead and alive [all alive at the time], and it was, well, a lot.

V.S.Naipaul, who taught me what became my nonfiction method through his books, was passing through Cambridge, Mass., where my now wife and I were living. On a lark, we invited him to dinner through his publisher. He accepted.

I also invited the African American studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., the India scholar Ashutosh Varshney and some grad school friends.

Naipaul shows up, and immediately his wife calls off dinner because she says his legs cannot handle our third-floor walk-up. I understood. But, also, you guys, I was a young aspiring author and I had convinced V.S. Friggin' Naipaul to come over for dinner, and I wasn't going to let go.

So I offered to help carry up the stairs into my apartment, which I proceeded to do along with George Andreou, his publisher. It was strange and beautiful to carry the man who had taught me to write.

.- What do you plan to read next?

I want to go deeper on Hannah Arendt, George Orwell and James Baldwin - you know, given [ gestures at everything].

I am itching to read LeBlanc's long awaited book deep inside the world of comedy. And Philip Gourevitch's forthcoming one on Rwanda and reconciliation. And Sektu Mehta's on New York City.

And maybe some spy novels. When you finish writing a book, you deserve a little fun, right?

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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