McNeal's new novel is The Incident on the Bridge.
Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading three things right now: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, David Copperfield by (of course) Dickens, and At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell. Olive Kitteridge is a book I always meant to read, but I have a self-defeating aversion to bestselling books, and I wrongly thought that the book could not possibly be as good as everyone said it was. It’s every bit as good, though, and maybe better. I find it devastating, yet somehow inspiring; lyrical and yet unpretentious. It makes me want to write and it makes me despair of ever writing that well, which is how I like to feel when I’m reading fiction.Visit Laura McNeal's website.
As for Dickens, my husband is currently re-reading him for a novel he’s writing in which there’s a section (which I haven’t been allowed to read yet) with the working title of “The Year of Reading Dickens.” In order to speed his progress, Tom not only reads the books but listens to them in the car, and whenever I’m in the car, I listen, too. I fell in love again with the beginning of David Copperfield and decided I should read it on my own as an example of something I’m trying to do myself, which is to narrate, in convincing detail, scenes that the character could not possibly have witnessed.
My reading of the Sarah Bakewell book is similarly motivated by work. I’m writing (or trying to write) about a boy who turns to existentialism and Buddhism after a violent murder happens in his family, and I thought the Bakewell book might give me more conversational ways to describe arcane ideas. It does do that, and it also turns out to be a really interesting history of the philosophers themselves, so I’m enjoying it a lot.
The Page 69 Test: The Incident on the Bridge.