The author whose new book is '' The Core of an Onion : Peeling the Rarest Common Food, '' wishes more authors would denounce war : '' There are too many books celebrating it. ''

.-  What books are on your night stand?

Lydia Davis's translation of '' Madame Bovary. '' I translated a French classic by Zola, and it raised many difficult issues, so I'm curious how others deals with these problems. In the case of Davis, extremely well.

I also have the 17th-century Japanese story collection '' The Life of an Amorous Woman,'' by Ihara Saikaku, which I'd like to get to. And a story Sylvia Plath wrote in college, '' Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom.''

It's been there a long time because it's only 40 pages or so and I keep looking for the right time to read a 40-page book. On a short trip?

My friend Tom Hayden once said to me, '' Hey Mark, I have your new book on my night stand and you know those are always the last books you read.''

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

I recently reread '' The Grapes of Wrath,'' which I hadn't read since I was a kid. Absolutely stunning. When I read it as a kid, I decided I wanted to write something like that someday. Not yet.

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

Bernard Malamud, '' The Assistant.'' Being a baseball fan I had read '' The Natural, '' but really his other books are even better.

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

'' The Door,'' by Magda Szabo. Other people have heard of her. Most of them are in Hungary. Not enough people have read the sparkling novel.

.-  Which writers - novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets - working today do you admire most?

Robert Haas, Kwame Dawes, Frank Bidart for poetry. [ I wish I could still include Louise Gluck on that list.]

Lydia Davis for short stories, and for fiction in general Francine Prose, Cynthia Ozick, Edwidge Danticat, Annie Proulx and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

.-  You're known for your deep-dive microhistories of single-food items: cod, salt, now onions, what food writers do you especially recommend?

Calvin Trillin, because he sees that food goes in many directions but always remains fun. James Beard was a gifted writer with tremendous taste and an uncontrollable enthusiasm.

When I was a young, journalists at the International Herald Tribune in Pari, Waverly Root was an old-time food columnist for the paper. He was an inspiration and taught me that my food worth writing about tells a good story.

I also recommend reading recipes from past centuries, when they just weren't formulas.

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

I wish more books were written denouncing war. There are too many books celebrating it.

.-  Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally or intellectually?

I don't think there's a difference. Ideas are emotionally exciting.

This is the pleasure of German philosophy - Freud, Nietzsche, Marx, even Hannah Arendt, or Einstein when you can understand him - there is an excitement about ideas just like good food writing has an excitement about food.

All good writing is emotional, though not all good writing is intellectual.

.-  What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Celine, '' Journey to the End of the Night.'' I'm not sure what to do with a writer who is that antisemitic.

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

When I was young, maybe 12, and my sister only a year older, she gave me a copy of Ferlinghet's '' A Coney Island of the Mind.'' I still haven't gotten over it. I learned so much about writing from this book, about ignoring rules and finding the rhythm of your own voice.

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

Zola, Tolstoy and Colette. I've always wanted to meet all three. I think Colette would be fun, but also interesting, a good writer somewhat underrated. I would enjoy hearing wild Colette and Tolstoy, the bearded Christian, discussing writing while Zola weighs in on political activism.

All three had strong ideas about food and its role in society and just deciding on the menu would be an experience. Oh, and can James Joyce drop by for a drink? He wrote one of  the all time best descriptions of a dinner.

.-  What do you plan to read next?

Someone just sent me a first book by a Hawaiian writer, Megan Kamalei Kakimoto. A collection of stories called '' Every Drop Is a Man's Nightmare ". Looking forward to it.    

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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