The author, whose new novel is : ''Now Is Not the Time to Panic,'' likes books that mix tenderness with weirdness, ''where freakishness isn't presented as something inhuman.''

.- Describe your ideal reading experience {when, where, what, how}.

Well, there is nothing as lovely as reading to your kids, saying the words on the page out loud, your kid right next to you, both of you building the story in your head, imagining it in similar and different ways, until you're ready to drift off to sleep.

Otherwise, I'd choose a five-hour layover in the Raleigh-Durham Airport with a backpack full of books I've been wanting to read and candy bars, hiding in the corner of the airport where no one can see me.

.- What's your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I worry that I'll mention a book and everyone will say, ''Yeah, Kevin, we all read that book YEARS AGO. But one book that I don't hear many people talk about is Gwendolyn MacEwen's ''Julian the Magician,'' which is so singularly brilliant.

Although mostly known for her poetry, she published this novel when she was 22. {TWENTY-TWO!!!} Every single page of this odd, magical book has a line that will unnerve you or make you catch your breath. I was just completely hypnotized by it.

.- Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

I would never count a book as a guilty pleasure, but the circumstances of when I read it might affect that. For instance, sometimes during Convocation or graduation at the university where I teach, we wear academic gowns to the chapel and sit for a few hours, and so I usually tuck a few issues of One Story in the sleeves of my gown and read them through the entire ceremony.

I don't know if that's a guilty pleasure or just terrible manners.

.- Do you think there are any canonical books that are widely misunderstood?

I honestly am not even sure what the canonical books are or how they are typically understood or what it is that is misunderstanding them. I would say that most people overvalue their experience of reading a classic book when they were a teenager, either good or bad.

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

Oh, that's hard to say. I find that I just want authors to write about their obsessions, the specificity of their own desires and concerns, and it's up to me as the reader to find my way through them.

That said, if people want to write more books about women's basketball, professional wrestling, feral children, obsessive collections, secret underground rooms, then I'll be happy to read it.

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

Weirdness mixed with tenderness. Moments where a little sliver of light appears, something that can help you find a way toward something better.

I tend to love books where freakishness isn't presented as something inhuman, but rather in affirmation of what it means to be a human being trying to survive in a very inhospitable world.

.- Disappointing, overrated, just not good : What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Do people answer this one? Yokes! I actually tend to like almost everything I read. I remember once I was in a bookstore with a friend and she'd point to a book and I'd say that I'd read it and she'd say, ''Did you like?'' and I would say, ''Oh, yes, very much,'' and after about 10 minutes, she kind of shouted, ''Is there any book you've read didn't like?''

I thought for a bit and couldn't really come up with an answer. If I read a book, spend that much time with it, try to meet it on its terms, I usually find something that makes it worthwhile.

.- What do you plan to read next?

I like to reread some books that I've blurbed because it's fun to go back into them when other people are reading them for the first time. So I'm planning to reread Blair Braverman's ''Small Game,'' which was so absolutely perfect that I want to experience it again.

I also cannot wait for Paz Pardo's ''The Shamshine Blind,'' which blends detective noir with sci-fi. How can I resist?

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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