Cat's Outta the Bag

November marked the first month of our new Apple-a-Month Club, a subscription service wherein you can receive a hand-picked (and eyeball-read) new fiction title in the mail once a month. Our hands are doing the picking, our eyeballs are doing the reading, and all you've got to do is check the mailbox and hug your postperson (or resist the urge) when they bring you a pretty little package like this in the mail.

And, now that November's subscribers have had the chance to be surprised by their new book and our handwritten shelf-talker, we can tell the rest of you that our inaugural Club selection is In Red by Magdalena Tulli, a beautiful new little translation from Archipelago Books.

The heart of Magdelena Tulli's novel is the imaginary Polish town Stitchings. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude), Stitchings serves as setting for an array of darkly fantastic events: from a girl who refuses to acknowledge her death to the home of a man destined for a bullet that's circled the earth for years, Tulli's town offers the ultimate pleasure to readers: the impossible made believable. As such, we felt it was the perfect place to start our Apple-a-Month Club.

Want in? Why wouldn't you. If you're interested in subscribing for 3, 6, or 12 months, please do so by December 5th to get your first book in the mail about a week later. Got someone on your holiday shopping list who you want to surprise closer to Christmas? Purchase a subscription by December 18th and we'll send the recipient a card in the mail to let them know they're getting an awesome gift, and they'll get their first book in January.

the Tuesday interview: Lucy Corin

[thanks for this goes to royalquietdeluxe]

Lucy Corin is the author of The Entire Predicament (Tin House Books) and Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls (FC2). She's currently at work on a novel about a hundred very small apocalypses and a novel about the brain. Her stories have appeared all over, including American Short Fiction, Ploughshares and Tin House Magazine. I'm pretty thrilled she's RQD's first interview.

RQD: What are you working on now? What's interesting to you about these characters?
LC: I'm writing a novel. Just yesterday, actually, I started a "character chart" to track the things I know so far about the characters, b/c I don't get interested in already-imagined characters so much as who they start being as I accumulate pages. So what interests me about these, is that I am developing them in relation to each other (trying to see how they counter and balance each other in the story) and struggling with fully imagining them the way I am writing them (rather than what in my life they spring from). I'm focusing on 2 characters who are obsessed with two possibly mad people, and trying to find the personhood within the context of madness is the point of writing the novel. There's a way that even including madness in the world of a book can dehumanize people/characters, and that's what I'm struggling with.

RQD: Who are some of the visual artists you're thinking about now in relation to your work?
LC: I spent some time looking at Marcel Dzama last year, and James Casabere photos of models of housing developments, and Simon Evans' maps. Going to SF MOMA today!

RQD: Is there a book or story or poem that you return to over and over?
LC: White Noise, Lolita and "A Good Man is Hard to Find," are probably the "most reread" things.

RQD: What are you reading now?
LC: Zeno's Conscience and Promethia

RQD: And as a kid, what were you reading? Did they impact your work? How?
LC: Incredibly important. My mother read me wonderful inappropriate things as a kid: James Dickey (The Sheep Child-- very formative!), Poe, Sylvia Plath, Dylan cummings (here is little effie's head whose brains are made of gingerbread...) she read me things she was into that were musical-- I remember how important musicality was both to her sense of what would appeal to a child and what the point of literature was. She also told me stories about British Royal history... the Stuarts and the Tudors and Anne Boleyn. It was great melodrama. I didn't learn to read until I was maybe 7 (dyslexia) but as soon as I could read I read intensely. Anne Frank was the first whole book I read by myself- I think I was 8. I wrote a poem about it. Z for Zaccharia (sp? author O'Brien?) was an important YA book for me. At 13 it was all about Jim Carroll's Baskeball Diaries.

A slipcased sea

With the exception of a year in the Midwest, I've spent all of my adulthood living at most a few miles from a coast. Yet even when I could hear the Atlantic's staticky, nor'easterly roar from my bedroom window in New Jersey or now, when on clear days in San Francisco I can see the Pacific from the roof of my building, I've always wanted a tangible object to keep close by.

We all know people who collect shells or stones or driftwood. (I remember very distinctly my grandmother's homemade shell-filled lamp.) I'm a book person, so it's perhaps unsurprising that I've always desired to have the sea between the pages of a book.

Until now, though, I've never acted on that desire, maybe because I felt caught between the atavism and the consumerism of the impulse (as if any object, especially a photograph, can properly capture The Sea), or because I've never quite found the perfect book, despite there being no shortage of such collections. Besides, let's face it, there is also a lot of sentimentality about the sea; romance as well, but rarely romance that doesn't devolve into hackneyed phrases and imagery.

This book, though. This is the one. It's full of romance that steers clear of the dangerous shoals of sentimentality; it's got grandeur and shipwrecks and symbolism; it evokes the real sublimity and ordinariness of of the sea, while managing to permit it its dream quality. It's also got a slipcase. (A slipcase, I say!)

Francis Mortimer, The Wreck (1911)

Adolf Fassbender, Crashing Wave (c. 1930)

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Black Sea, Ozuluce (1991)

the Tuesday interview: Kara Levy

I met San Francisco writer, Kara Levy at a Peter Orner reading at Dog Eared Books through another writer friend, Cora Stryker. The reading was for JoyLand Magazine where Kara is the SF/Bay Area editor. Later, after another reading, we talked about what we say when people ask, "what do you write about?" Kara sometimes says, "sickness and the body." Well, they don't usually ask again after that.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Kara Levy: Right now I'm working on a novel — it's a sort of humorous adventure novel that follows a self-proclaimed journalist-turned-Professional-Sick-Person on an unlikely quest to find a cure for Crohn's Disease. Crohn's Disease isn't curable (yet), but the novel involves a fake medieval-style pilgrimage, battle reenactments, a few infidelities, some madcap teenagers, and a lot of capes and baubles in the characters' quest to see if it could be. It's as much about these characters' quest to find a cure for something incurable as it is about their beliefs (or lack thereof) that the impossible could be possible, through belief or friendship or will or something we can't even understand. As an optimistic skeptic, that's a theme that interests me a lot. I'm also polishing up my finished story collection, Doctors of the Natural World, which examines issues of illness and the body too. In that book, the recurring question seems to be, "What choices do we make after the body makes choices for us?" I spend a lot of energy trying to convince people it's not depressing. I guess you'll just have to read bits of it to believe me.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

KL: I feel like I've been hugely influenced by standup and screen comedians: Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Lucille Ball, George Carlin, and so on. There's so much more than humor behind those performances — and performers — than meets the eye. I'm really interested in comedy for what it can do to express real things about our experience, sometimes more than theater or performance that purports to be serious. I also love medieval art, particularly architecture. You'll see a lot of that showing up in my novel. Is it appalling to say that I wrote a whole story in my collection while listening to an Akon song on repeat? Truth: That happened. Akon knows things.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

KL: Oh, geez, so much. Lorrie Moore's Self-Help is inescapable for me. I think I have two copies of it, for some odd reason. I also love Andre Dubus's story "Fat Girl," and go back to that often. I've reread Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler many, many times and I always learn something new, particularly about structure (which is not a strength of mine). In recent years I've found myself often revisiting a Wells Tower story, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned." It's the title story of his collection, and I think it's so brilliant. It's the perfect storm of humor and pain and character and story. He takes the unfamiliar and makes it so familiar it's almost disorienting. I wish I could figure out how to write anything even closely approximating it.

RQD: What are you reading now?

KL: I'm reading Eric Puchner's Model Home. A friend recommended it to me, and I'm really enjoying it. I also just started Erik Larson's In the Garden of the Beasts, also on a friend's recommendation. I find fictional-style retellings of history fascinating. It reminds me a little of a book I loved in high school, Alison Weir's The Six Wives of King Henry VIII. I remember thinking it was such a revelation that history could be communicated so compellingly. (No offense to my high-school history teachers, who were also, of course, totally compelling.)

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

KL: As a kid I loved Roald Dahl, but I don't think I realized until much later in life just how dark he really is. I also liked the Madeline l'Engle books, and then, when I got to middle school, I decided on A Separate Peace as my favorite book. Tortured, woeful Funny! Common theme: I reread it as an adult and was like, Wait, what? I think I saw impact as a different thing back then. The impact was a lot, lot less reading it fifteen years later. Sometimes it's interesting to go back and revisit things you've always held up so high, you know? Sometimes they're just as you remember them, but for different reasons, and sometimes the distance shows you how much your taste has changed, or your threshold for certain types of narratives.

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

Here's a new book recommended by staffer Kevin Davis:

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

In the early 90s, (We were the “Twentysomethings,” We were on the cover of “Time Magazine”), I’d see this ethereal young man around town named Justin Bond who looked exactly like the weak-chinned, moon faced thieving gypsy girl in Georges de La Tour’s 1630 painting, “The Fortune Teller.”

I also thought of the local pale androgyne upon viewing that scene in the film “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” when the American solder, Luther, viewing Hansel sunbathing nude in East Germany says, “Damn Hansel, I can’t believe you’re not a girl. You’re so fine.”

I’d see Bond working at the Eureka Branch Library, at Queer Nation meetings wearing a mod black zip-up Adrienne Vittadini mock turtleneck, and at A Different Light bookstore on Castro Street (back when it was a real bookstore and de facto community center co-owned by Norman Laurila, managed by Richard Labonte and staffed by up and coming artists like Darrell Lynn Alvarez, activists like Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and authors like Betty Pearl, and not the poppers-selling gay airport gift shop the store became). Bond even had a sadly brief tenure as a columnist for the LGBT “Bay Area Reporter.”

Anyway, I’d see Justin and think, what’s his story.

Well, guess what? Mx Justin Vivian Bond, (she invented that prefix herself), now a 48-year-old cabaret singer/songwriter and performance artist who has entertained everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Sydney Opera House, has written a coming of age book all about her middle school affair with a cute ruffian, as well as polymorphous Boy Scout troupe shenanigans, a warm tribute to her hysterical former beauty queen mother, and the angsty challenges endured by the misunderstood, delicate-featured boy with ADD.

Although the story is slight and uneven, I so related to Bond’s sad effort to become invisibly butch, as opposed to the goddess she considered herself to be, after being denied the glamour of wearing frosted watermelon lipstick to school.

There’s a reason this book has been blurbed by everyone from Michael Cunningham to Sandra Berhhard.

On Reading, Recommending, and Being in a Room With Joan Didion

When I was fifteen years old and a reluctant new resident of California, my favorite teacher put a warm photocopy of Joan Didion's essay Los Angeles Notebook in my hands. The essay is Didion's psychological inquiry into the phenomenon that is the Santa Ana winds, which were blowing (wafting, careening) through Southern California at the time. The piece, in stunning, precise, aching language, stated something that I deeply felt: these winds make people totally nuts. But it meant something more to me, too -- that this place that seemed like an amorphous sprawl of cloudless 70 degree days did in fact have some extremity to its climate, a collective lore, and for lack of a better term, a soul. I wrote an essay about that essay, probably pretending to do so begrudgingly but secretly thrilled and electrified by the opportunity to pick up and examine each piece of the language. My relationships with the winds, with California, with reading and with writing were never quite the same.

Ten years later, nearly to the week, I was lucky enough to hear Didion speak as part of the City Arts and Lectures series at the Herbst Theater on Tuesday night. I had read more of Didion's writing in the last 10 years -- mostly her essays, though I also spent a strange weekend with The Year of Magical Thinking, her memoir about the sudden and unrelated losses of both her husband and daughter (a difficult book to make it through, though I didn't realize quite why until she offered one explanation to the theater the other night -- "the sentences in that book don't track" she said, an effect she said was inadvertent and makes it hard for her to read them herself now, but which of course mirrors the way dealing with grief is like a constant strain to get from one feeling to the next, a clumsy armful of moments). But I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to the significance of her early influence on my reading, writing, and psyche until on a whim I gave my brother a copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem -- the collection that houses Los Angeles Notebook -- for Christmas last year. He was 18, had just moved away from California. It seemed timely. Since then, at the wise suggestion of a coworker who found me huddled in a corner re-reading the book when I was supposed to be shelving it, I've put Slouching Towards Bethlehem on our Staff Picks display -- and every time I see it sold, I hope it's been given as a gift.

(An equally timely digression: one of the best things about giving a beloved book as a gift is that the recipient is sort of obligated to have a conversation with you about it at some point, so the book is given back to you in the form of their re-telling. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised to get the call from my brother expressly to say that he loved it, and even more surprised that the essay he had latched on to -- On Self Respect -- was one I had practically forgotten was in the collection. I re-read it immediately, tickled and a little humbled by the rediscovery and the fact that it was my kid brother who'd pointed me to it.)

When Didion walked on stage at the Herbst theater, it all seemed to come together: that stapled printer paper that both justified my California malaise and forced me to examine it, the satisfaction of putting it in someone's hands to whom it might matter, the culmination of a decade of reading and writing in California that wouldn't have been the same without the tiny person on the stage below (she's really tiny).

Now that I've come to the part where I intended to recount key points of the talk, I feel it slipping from my grasp. Which is fitting: when talking about why she had turned down a request to do an interview for a blog speculating about the political future of our state earlier that day, she said that, not having written speculatively on the subject before, she feared it would be an incomplete thought -- "but that," she said "is the nature of a blog, I suppose" (zing!). In addition to reading from and speaking to her newest book, Blue Nights, she spoke matter-of-factly about when she doubts her own abilities as a writer ("every day") what makes a good relationship with an editor ("they think you're just wonderful") and ended every answer during the Q&A portion with the wry challenge "anyone else?"

But the part that stood out the most to me was her response to a question about what she hopes students get out of her work when assigned to read it in class. I scooted to the edge of my seat. "I don't know what they get out of it," she said. "I hope they get a sense of the possibility of language to tell the story all by itself."

Yup, Joan. That's what I got.

"Anyone else?"

Ho ho ho; 19 gift ideas

or, the depths to which we will go to keep your business.

Here are the 19 things all on one web page. Or browse everything online or in our store. Ho ho ho.

Device Advice for reading digitally

We heard from a customer that--to our stunned disbelief--with the brand-new Amazon Fire Kindle, you are able to buy eBooks from a variety of sources (like Green Apple), not just from Amazon, as has been the case since Amazon's very first e-readers. We will confirm this and update our device advice soon. Here's the excellent app we recommend for your Nook, Kindle Fire, or other Android-based device--it's based on the popular BlueFire reading app, so it's top quality.

If this is true, you'll be able to read eBooks bought from any seller on that device, which could be very good news for Green Apple and its loyal customers, as most eBooks we sell are priced exactly the same as at other competitors. We'll be back soon with an update.

Super thanks to loyal Green Apple customer Lovestampmom for pointing this out.

the Tuesday interview: Elana K. Arnold

[thanks, as always, to Erica at royalquietdeluxe for the weekly interview]

Elana K. Arnold's book Sacred is coming out in Fall 2012 and I can't wait. She's one of those people (Like Lindsay Leavitt) who writes books, raises great kids and is funny and down to earth and you sort of want her to be your best friend.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Elana K. Arnold: Right now I’m doing the research for the sequel to SACRED, my first novel, which Random House/Delacorte is publishing next fall. SACRED and its sequel entwine Kabbalistic mysticism and provocative romance. So I’m reading lots of texts, trying to deepen my own understanding of this complicated and ancient topic—Kabbalah, that is. I love my protagonist,Scarlett because she’s flawed and somewhat broken but determined to heal and grow. Also, both SACRED and its sequel deal with horses—Scarlett is an avid rider—and I love writing about horses.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

EA: My first love, even outside of fiction, is books. I love memoir; David Sedaris thrills me, John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye was wonderful, Temple Grandin is amazing. When I listen to music it’s often James Taylor. His voice brings me back to my childhood since my parents always listened to his music, too. And I have a guilty fascination with celebrities… not necessarily as ‘artists,’ but as human beings.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

E: Easy. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman is always nearby. Everything by John Irving, particularly A Prayer for Owen Meany. And Paul Auster’s books—namely The New York Trilogy—probably because I’m still trying to figure it out.

RQD: What are you reading now?

EA: Aside from texts about the Kabbalah—Arthur Green’s A Guide to the Zohar and Daniel C. Matt’s Essential Kabbalah—I’m revisiting mystery novels (a sort of pleasurable research). There are competing stacks of Agatha Christie and Harry Kemelman on my table. And I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild; I preordered it.

RQD:What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

EA: Anything I could get my hands on. Anne of Green Gables and Gone with the Wind were huge for me, I devoured all of Christie’s books, and was fascinated by Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex But were Afraid to Ask (which I found in my grandmother’s library!). All the Pretty Horses and Cowboys are my Weakness taught me that you could write about horses without being insipid. I read literary fiction—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Rand—and trashy bodice-ripper romances. I was an indiscriminate reader. I think the result is that as a writer I smash together everything I love, highbrow and lowbrow alike.

Two Titles for your Vets Day Reading List (for the price of one)

In honor of Veterans Day, we are pleased to announce (with gratitude to Grove/Atlantic for the ability to do so) a topical buy-one-get-one-free sale. This weekend (as in, right now through Sunday) if you buy a copy of Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like to Go To War, you'll also get a free copy of Matterhorn, his Vietnam war novel (and a former Green Apple Book of the Month) for free. Both an excellent literary deal and a hearty stack of timely and related reading material for the coming winter months, these two books both deal with the physical, political, and emotional effects of war -- Matterhorn from a fictional perspective, and What It Is Like to G0 to War a deeply personal and thorough non-fiction account of Marlantes' own experience as a veteran. The memoir, in which Marlantes struggles with trauma and navigating his relationships upon his return home (at one point even seeking absolution in a meeting with mythologist Joseph Campbell), professes itself to be both a personal reconciliation of sorts and a call to citizens and legislators to better understand the consequences of war for the individual. And if you've been waiting to read Matterhorn (a book we liked so much that multiple Green Applers endorsed it last year), or were considering giving it as a gift, well, what better time?

the Tuesday interview: Nova Ren Suma

(thanks to Erica over at royalquietdeluxe for this interview)

I bought Nova Ren Suma's book, Imaginary Girls, because I loved the cover (I love covers) but when I read the first three pages, I slammed the book shut. Damn this book is good. I saved it for my SF/NY flight and as soon as I got settled, I started in again. I didn't look up. I didn't watch the movie. Five hours went by and I was completely transported.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Nova Ren Suma: I’m working on a few things—all in different stages—so my head’s a mess right now. My next YA novel coming out with Dutton (release date still to be determined) is a ghost story, in a way, and sometimes the pieces I write for it deeply disturb me. WHO wrote that? I think. And then I realize… Oh, that was me. The characters in it, these girls with frightening fates, have been haunting me for the past year. I’m interested in rescuing them from what they have to face, and I think they’re interested in pulling me in with them.

RQD: What art or artists (not fiction, but theatre, painters, music, etc.) interest you?

NRS: There is a photographer who’s fascinated me for years. I first discovered her photographs in a college photo class, when we were studying self-portraits, and she’s been my favorite artist ever since: Francesca Woodman. It’s a very sad story (she committed suicide at age 22), and in her beautiful black-and-white images—many of which are of herself—you can see how stunningly talented she was. There’s so much said in these images, by the way she blurs herself out and hides within the frame, by what’s shown as well as what’s not shown. I can’t even articulate how much I love her photographs.

I’m also drawn to female musicians—to a certain kind of voice (always honest), and a storytelling quality in songs. I have such a crush on Amanda Palmer… she’s amazing. And I’m a huge fan of Chan Marshall, Karen O., PJ Harvey, Emily Haines, and Alison Mosshart. I’d listen to, and write to, any song they sing.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

NRS: There are some books I’ve read again and again and will continue to, probably for the rest of my life. One is a novel called The Last Life by Claire Messud; I’m obsessed with it. Another is Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr. Then there are the short stories, the Alice Munro collections and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson (which I’ve been known to read aloud to others, especially his story “Dirty Wedding,” which, just… wow) and Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun and the brilliant fairy-tale retellings in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

RQD: What are you reading now?

NRS: I’m reading some YA manuscripts I must keep secret… but I’m loving what I’ve read so far. I also believe in using tempting books as motivators, so my reward for finishing the proposal pages of my next novel and turning them in to my agent will be 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s new novel, which promises to be very magical.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

NRS: I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. When I look back, I see that the books that most impacted me were the novels I found on my mom’s bookshelves. She was—still is—an avid reader. Seeing her read and love books all throughout my childhood certainly shaped me as a person and ignited this dream in me to write my own books one day. When I was about twelve or thirteen I borrowed her Margaret Atwood books: Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale. They opened my eyes to what kinds of stories I could tell. They showed me that stories about girls could be books, too. I decided I’d grow up to be a writer very soon after that.

Photo: Francesca Woodman, Polka Dots,

Providence, Rhode Island, 1976 on view at SFMOMA

November's Book of the Month: Luminous Airplanes

Here's our pitch to get you to read our latest "Book of the Month" pick, Paul La Farge's Luminous Airplanes:

Paul La Farge's latest novel is, essentially, a chronicle of failure: it's about airplanes that never make it off the ground; a religious sect who awaited an uplifting rapture that never came; and what turned out to be the false promise of the dot com boom, when it seemed the sky was the limit for the possibilities of emerging technologies. Although a book of failures may not promise the most inspirational reading, La Farge manages, through his winsome narrator, to humorously and deftly weave together these (and other) strands to create a picture of the turn of the 21st century--set right here in San Francisco--that feels as true and fantastic as the world itself. Be sure to also explore the immersive online text that accompanies this splendid novel.

As usual, we guarantee your reading satisfaction.

Lock the doors, unplug that TV, it's NaNoWriMo!

Today is the day, noble scribes. . . it begins!

Now in it's 13th year, The National Novel Writing Month is a tough as nails challenge, a grueling marathon, and if you complete it, a success worthy of writing books about. Oh, wait, that's the whole idea, isn't it?

Indeed. In a nutshell, NaNoWriMo is a month-long kick in the pants, encouraging budding novelists to commit themselves to beginning (from scratch), and finishing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Feh. . . you kids got it easy this year; if I remember right, wasn't last year's goal 60,000 words? But, I may still be living in a fantasy. . . Still, for those of you who are better with letters than you are with numbers, let me break this year's goal down for you: to reach 50k words in the month of November, you'll need to pump out 1,666 words a day, every day. I couldn't do it, but last year some 37,500 folks did - just look at how this movement has exploded:

Annual participant/winner totals

: 21 participants and six winners

2000: 140 participants and 29 winners

2001: 5000 participants and more than 700 winners

2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners

2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners

2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners

2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners

2006: 79,813 participants and 12,948 winners

2007: 101,510 participants and 15,333 winners

2008: 119,301participants and 21,683 winners

2009: 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners

2010: 200,500 participants and 37, 500 winners

So good luck to all of you who accept this grand challenge - I'm in! Just remember, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. In other words, Just Write It!

the tuesday interview: Andrew Sean Greer

thanks to our friend Erica at royalquietdeluxe!

I still find it surprising when writers I admire say yes to my interview requests. Andrew Sean Greer is one of those writers. He's our writer, a Bay Area writer, and he's always struck me as someone you'd like to have around, someone who, as he says, is "game for a mysterious adventure."

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Andrew Sean Greer: I'm finishing the third draft of a novel called "Many Worlds" that is a literary novel set in multiple universes. As for these characters, I finally get to have some people with a sense of humor!

RQD: What art or artists have an effect on your work?

ASG: Poetry and painting has the greatest effect on me; poetry because they are doing the hard work down in the mines, and what they bring up always inspires my own work, and painting because there is something about the intensity of the painted flat surface that mesmerizes and moves me outside all reason. I find portraits to be fascinating. But for intensity, something like Cy Twombly or Serra's recent show of drawings at the Met really do it for me. Big overpowering movement. Cleverness does nothing for me; emotion is all I'm interested in with art. That probably goes for fiction as well.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

ASG: Now I don't return to things because I love them; I return to them because they help my writing. These are related but not the same. And I'd say Proust and Grace Paley and Wallace Stevens. They always knock my socks off and get me going.

RQD: What are you reading now?

ASG: I'm reading Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

ASG: I read antique children's fiction--you know, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and Tom Sawyer, and the Boxcar Children and all that--that gradually turned into fantasy and science fiction and then turned into philosophical fiction by high school like Camus. Strangely enough, I still find those old books satisfying in ways that sci fi and even Camus are not, anymore. I think it's the quality of the writing and characterization. And the sense of people game for a mysterious adventure!

Drawing: Richard Serra "Late September" 2001