The singer, whose debut novel is ''This Bird Has Flown,'' has a dollar bill signed by William S Burroughs : '' He ....... gave me a mischievous half-smile and said,'  Ah, defacing U.S. currency.' ''

.-  What books are on your night stand?

'' Dickens and Prince : A Particular Kind of Genius,'' by Nick Hornby. '' Lincoln is the Bardo,'' by George Saunders. '' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois,'' by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. ''Giovanni's Room,'' by James Baldwin.

'' A Single Man,'' by Christopher Isherwood. And always on my night stand, '' The Book of Questions,'' by Pablo Neruda. 

At the moment, I'm reading Truman Capote's novella '' Breakfast at Tiffany's. He's a gorgeous writer. And somewhere in the stack is George Eliot's ''Middlemarch,'' which I keep meaning to read but never seem to get around to.

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

I just reread '' The Great Gatsby, '' which I do every few years. There is something voluptuous, intoxicating in Fitzgerald's prose who never fails to seduce me, to make me feel tipsy, which is great, because I gave up the booze years ago and I miss that feeling.

Nabokov and Updike write that way too.  I also recently reread Zadie Smith's '' White Teeth,'' John Fowles's ''Danial Martin,'' Thomas Hardy's '' Tess of the D'Urbervilles.'' As with a favorite song or film, demand repeat play.

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

'' Lady Chatterley's Lover.'' I found the  ...... explicit ...... use of the word ''crisis'' interesting. Who doesn't enjoy a good crisis? Some people even have multiple ''crises.'' I've heard that's possible.

.- Can a great book be badly written? Whether other criteria can overcome bad prose?

I would say that a compelling voice that speaks truth is always powerful, even if the prose doesn't measure up to what's being said. The same could be true in painting, music theater, film. I love a good potboiler.

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

When : Constantly. How : I switch back and forth between e-reader and audio book. I love how cinematic an audiobook can become - a good narrator can bring characters to life in a dramatic new dimension.

Where : Everywhere. On the streets, in the kitchen, in the car, on a plane, by land or by sea, my books go with me. 

What : I love disappearing into a novel. It's freedom, escape, from my own ruminations, yet stories, even sad ones, connect us to our humanness in ways that never cease to lift me.  

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

Yoko One's ''Grapefruit,'' a collection of poems [ a to-do list of fanciful prompts ] which I found at a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley in the late 1970s when I was in college.

This small square of a book was instrumental in inspiring me to be an artist, as were those bookstores in Berkeley. I once met William S. Burroughs in one, when I queued up to get his autograph with nothing but a dollar bill for him to sign. 

He glanced up, amused, gave me a mischievous half-smile and said, ''Ah, defacing a U.S. currency'', and proceeded to sign it.

.- What book most influenced your decision to become a songwriter and musician or contributed to your artistic development?

Perhaps '' Jane Eyre. '' Something in the fierceness of the character's convictions ;  despite being small, female, without resources, she perseveres.

When I set out to write '' The Bird Has Flown, '' I kept returning to ''Jane Eyre'' and ''Rebecca.'' Love, Fate, Ghosts of relationships past.

.- Who are your favorite musician writers?

Paul Smith. I loved ''Just Kids,'' and in ''M Train'' I discovered we share a love of detective and crime shows, as well as black coffee.

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

Recently, in attempting to organize my library, I came across the hardback of ''Sophie's Choice,'' by William Styron, and saw that I'd inscribed the book to my future husband, soon after we'd met on a blind date.

We're about to celebrate our 30th anniversary, in April. I wanted to share a book, I was passionate about - and probably I wanted him to know he was headed into a love affair with the granddaughter of a rabbi.

.-  What author would you want to write your life story?

John Waters. He would be great with my dating life in the '80s.

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

Charlotte Bronte. James Baldwin. Truman Capote.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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