What books are on your night stand right now?
Currently reading By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (and I’m enraptured by it). Others in the queue: Swing Time by Zadie Smith, Riverine by Angela Palm, Eighty-Sixed by David B. Feinberg, re-read of The Food Chain by Nicky Silver (play) and – for fun – Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews. I love me some gothic Dollangangers!
What was the last great book you read?
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. A life-changing book.
What's the best classic novel you recently read for the first time?
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 and is really good. I recently watched the 1942 Orson Welles adaptation on TCM and it was very moving and quite dark at times.
Tell us about your favorite New York stories.
Well, some of them are in my book, At Danceteria and Other Stories, but one of my favorite NYC stories involves my Dad and his twin brother being chosen to enter Studio 54 back in the day. They weren’t famous people or anything, wearing loafers and iZod shirts which I just find hilarious. I also love the story that Madonna tells about getting into a cab when she first arrived in NYC and asked the driver to take her to the center of everything (or something like that). Even if she’s romanticized and/or added onto the story in the years since, it seems like exactly the kind of thing she would do and say.
What do you read when you're working on a piece? And what kind of reading do you avoid when writing?
Interesting question. If I’m writing something that requires research, the research is what I’m reading while I’m writing. If I’m writing about a particular time period, I also like to watch movies from that particular year to really surround myself with the music, film, fashion, and the “palette” of the times. This was very much part of my process when I was writing At Danceteria and Other Stories. If I’m writing something really heavy and dark, I kind of like to read something light. Or old Pauline Kael reviews which I love to read for their punch and economy of language. What do I avoid when writing? Anything too similar to what I’m working on in theme, tone, style, etc.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelf?
Once is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann.
What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?
A first edition hardback edition of George Orwell’s 1984 that once belonged to my great-aunt Ruth.
What is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite anti-hero or villain?
My favorite childhood hero would have to be He-Man. I was obsessed with him back when I was a kid and, even now, I find him very hot and strong (can one be attracted to their heroes?) Obama and Hillary are my current favorite hero and heroine. I find both of them so inspiring, especially as we dip into darker and darker times with a true orange villain in power. My favorite villain would be Michelle Pfeiffer’s version of Catwoman in Batman Returns. How she failed to receive an Oscar nomination for that iconic performance is still something that bothers me.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
Voracious. Non-stop. I was obsessed with books and basically still am. I remember being very confused on the school bus when I would pull out my book to read (which was always an “extra” book, not the ones we were reading for class which I would have already finished) and kids were like, “Why are you reading that?” My answer would be, “You mean, you’re NOT reading a book on the side?” I thought they were really missing out on something.

I was really into the book Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh when I was growing up and even started my own journal like the main character. I loved that Harriet wanted to be a writer like me. Later, during my pre-teen years, I was a major devotee of those Christopher Pike novels. They were so thrilling to me.

You're organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Oscar Wilde, Toni Morrison, and Truman Capote.
What book do you feel you were supposed to like, and didn't?
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette? but I thought that her follow-up novel was simply (“semply”? lol) awful.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
Bruce Vilanch and Dustin Lance Black, co-authors.
What do you plan to read next?
Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta is the next pick in our book club. It’s set during the ’80s apparently so, obviously, I’m already interested 😉
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