What do you think of when you think of Chicago?
I think of food and friends—and maybe I should reverse that and say 'friends and food' (the better order). And I think of Andersonville. And the writer Aleksandar Hemon (who is my Andersonville guide).
Who is an author you'd like to meet, dead or alive?
Well, I get to meet lots and lots of living authors, since we very often travel the same routes. And I'm very thankful for those interactions—I really love a lot of the folks writing today. As for the dead? I'd love to meet Gogol and Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Dostoevsky, Voltaire. The list goes on and on and on.
What's the worst question you've ever been asked in an interview?
"Why didn't you shave?"
What's your guilty pleasure reading?
That's a trick question. I didn't have any for a long time. And then I decided that I should have some, but that I shouldn't feel guilty about it. I've been reading lots of mysteries for the first time in 20 years.
Can you describe a random or unexpected experience you've had while promoting a book?
I married my wife because of a book tour in Brazil, but it's too long a story to explain here.
What's your favorite font to write in?
The fact that I have an answer for that that I care about, makes me take a moment to reflect on how I'm living my life. Ridiculous! Anyway, it's Times New Roman. But, until this last book, I always worked longhand.
Do you listen to music while you write? What music?
I've tried. And, once again a Hemon reference, but I wrote to Fela Kuti for a while because of him. But pretty much 100% of the time, I work in silence.
How do you celebrate after you've finished a book?
By going into a depression.
What's your favorite first line of a book? Last line?
I don't want to ruin it for everyone, but the most startling last lines of a big fat novel I'd invested in and loved are the one's in Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters. And I truly, truly love the last paragraph and last line of the Cheever Story "Goodbye, My Brother". I'd prefer to give you the whole paragraph, but the last line reads like this: "I saw them come out and I saw that they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and full of grace, and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea."
What book do you read over and over again?
The Plague.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun