Q: What one person – living or dead – would you most like to interview? Why?
A: You know, it’s funny. I’ve interviewed a lot of household names: Tennessee Williams, Barbra Streisand, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But the most resonant interviews for me when I was a reporter were always the ones with people you’ve never heard of. A woman trying to raise her kids in the projects. A struggling factory owner in Queens. The people who try to house the homeless and feed the hungry. Ordinary life interests me infinitely more than celebrity. Having said that, the person I would most like to interview is my mother. I was really young when she died, and I have so many questions which will never be answered now.
Q: What one book do you want the child or children in your life to read?
A: You’re killing me with the one-book thing. A Wrinkle in Time for those years when you feel odd and disaffected? Little Women for when a girl is coming into her own? I gave my eldest Portnoy’s Complaint when he was entering puberty not only because Roth is a great writer but because I didn’t want the boy to think being on high-octane testosterone overload was aberrational. My grandson is three, and we’ve been reading Dragons Love Tacos, and it’s grounding him thoroughly in the silly. The silly is a skill you need forever.
Q: What book will you give as a holiday gift this year?
A: I’m going to turn this one on its head. The essential book in my household during the holidays is A Christmas Carol, because my family reads it aloud on Christmas Eve day, every year.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I just finished rereading Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy, which is one of my literary touchstones. I have a biography of Prince Albert coming up, and the new Colson Whitehead. I’ve been a Colson Whitehead fan since his first, The Intuitionist. Also worth rereading.
Q: . Was there a time you almost gave up on your dream(s)? Why?
A: No. I have a lot of shortcomings; but giving up is not one of them.
Q: Other than the written word, what’s another great way to tell a story? Why?
A: Well, I think the written word is best because it lasts, but I go back to a question I’m asked frequently, and that’s whether I come from a family of writers. The answer is no, but I do come from a family of storytellers. I sat in living rooms too many times to count listening to my grandparents, my father, his sisters and brothers, tell stories, stories that got better and better over time. Some would have called this embellishment; I thought of it as improvement. The oral tradition is pretty powerful.
Q: If you were unable to do you’re doing now – what would you do?
A: I’d really like to be a surgeon, which begs the question of why I took neither chemistry nor biology in college.
Q: If Martians landed and you were asked to represent all of humanity by giving them one book, what book would that be?
A: Dragons Love Tacos. Just to confuse them. Seriously, maybe the Bible, but with annotations. Have I mentioned that you’re killing me with the one-book questions?