The author, whose new book is '' I Have Some Questions for You, '' wishes more novelists wrote about work. ''I want to enjoy a novel and at the same time learn everything about eel fishing or asbestos removal.''

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

I finally read ''The Door,'' by Magda Szabo, and it was stunning. It was the first book of a project I'm undertaking :

I'm reading my way around the world with 84 books in translation, as a memorial to my late father - a poet and a literary translator who died in 2020 at the age of 84. He was Hungarian, and so I started in Hungary and will end there too.

.- Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

One of the best things about this books-in-translation project is that I'm filling gaps I didn't even know I had. I just finished the sixth book in my worldwide trak, '' The Murderess, '' a fabulous and disturbing novella by the Greek author Alexandra Papadiamantis from the early 1900s. He's foundational to modern Greek literature, and I'm embarrassed that I hadn't heard of him before.

.- Describe your ideal reading experience [ when, where, what, how ].

I'd be tempted to say a tropical beach chair, but the truth is I have a hard time concentrating when I'm relaxing somewhere beautiful. I increasingly listen to audiobooks, at about 1.7x speed or higher. Walking along the Lake Michigan shore with a coffee in my hand and someone talking manically in my ears is just about perfect.]

.- Which writers - novelists, play-wrights, critics, journalists - working today do you admire most?

Tom Stoppard is in my pantheon. I just saw ''Leopoldstadt'' on Broadway and was equally moved and impressed. [Moved to the point of sobbing, impressed to the point of continued hero worship.]

His ''Arcadia'' is my favorite play, and had a seismic impact on my writing.

I love poets whose work is at least a little bit narrative and often head-on political - Jericho Brown, Marti Espada, Patricia Smith, Natalie Diaz.

I believe Julie Otsuka is the most original fiction writer working right now in English.

.- What do you read when you're working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

I only avoid books that I fear might be too similar to my own. And then they never turn out to be anything like what I'm writing, after all. I do tend to read a lot for research, and right now that means nonfiction about the rise of the Nazis.

I'm not sure what it's doing to my mental health to step onto the elliptical and put in my AirPods for 35 minutes on Joseph Gobells.

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

One time I sat next to Gabrielle Union on an airplane and she was reading a book I'd recently finished. I said, ''That's so good,'' and she said, ''Uh-huh.'' I figure we're best friends now.

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

I wish I could hear more about the details and peculiarities of characters' jobs.

Not a genetically boring office job, but something terribly specific that we don't normally get to hear about. I want to enjoy a novel and at the same time learn something about eel fishing or asbestos removal or typewriter repair.

And once in a while I want to read about people who like their work, people whose work isn't a grind holding them back from self-actualization.

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

The joy and tragedy of the passage of time. Which is almost always what I/m trying to write about.

.- Which book got you hooked on crime fiction?

I devour anything by Tana French. It's best on audio, so you can hear the nuances of various Irish accents. If I tried reading it to myself, every character would just sound like the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

.- Who's your favorite fictional detective? And the best villain?

Detective : Turtle Wexler from my favorite childhood book, Ellen Raskin's ''The Westing Game,'' is an absolutely perfect character - in her brilliance, her spite, her willingness to keep secrets in the end. Villain : Tom Ripley. I'm most interest in villains when we're in their heads.

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

When I was in college I witnessed a tragic death, and my father sent me Thornton Wilder's ''The Bridge of San Luis Rey'' - a book about a Franciscan friar in Peru who sees a rope bridge collapse, killing five people, and then tries to learn about their lives.

Wilder was so great at making sense of life and death, and that book healed me. It's a shame that we only tend to remember Wilder for the most sentimental parts of his most sentimental play.

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

Vladimir Nabokov, Gwendolyn Brooks and Lois Lowry. We'll be drinking Negronis.

The World Students Society thanks the author, The New York Times.


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