In poetry, I really like Kay Ryan, Morgan Parker, Ben Lerner and Kevin Powers. The contemporary novelists I admire most are the ones who do interesting things with genre and structure: Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell, Charles Yu and Dan Chaon are particular favorites. So far I’ve only read her nonfiction, but I love what I’ve read of Valeria Luiselli’s work.
What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?
I’m always working on a book. I don’t mean that in any grandiose way, it’s just that I enjoy writing novels and don’t like to take a break between projects, because writing a new book is helpful in remaining sane through the publication process. I think that whatever you read inevitably influences the way you write, so I just try to read a broad range of authors, so that I don’t start to sound too much like any one person.
Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?
No, for me those books are only pleasures. Look, we all work too much. It’s not at all unusual for me to send and receive business emails at night after everyone’s kids have gone to bed. There’s something invigorating about that culture of work, about being deeply engaged in work that you truly care about, but also it really is too much sometimes, so I will never feel guilty about rereading P. G. Wodehouse for the 17th time or binge-reading Danny M. Lavery’s “Dear Prudence” columns.
What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?
“The Feral Detective,” by Jonathan Lethem.
The last book you read that made you cry?
“The Need,” by Helen Phillips.
Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
“I like you,” I’ve found myself thinking on more than one occasion, “but if you don’t stop talking about ‘Infinite Jest,’ I may have to excuse myself and climb out your bathroom window.”