Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dexter Palmer

Dexter Palmer lives in Princeton, New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, where he completed his dissertation on the work of James Joyce, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon (and where he also staged the first academic conference ever held at an Ivy League university on the subject of video games).

His new novel is The Dream of Perpetual Motion.

Earlier this month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Recently I finished The Bascombe Novels by Richard Ford, a collection of three novels that includes The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land. I picked it up because I’m trying to read fiction that’s outside my comfort zone—when it comes to late-twentieth-century writing I tend to prefer postmodernist comedies like Thomas Pynchon’s novels, and I wanted a change of pace. I really enjoyed Ford’s trilogy, perhaps even more than I liked John Updike’s similar project with the character of Rabbit Angstrom—taken together, the three novels are a master class in dynamic character development. Over time the character of Frank Bascombe, sportswriter turned real-estate agent, comes to seem almost like a real person, due to all the carefully chosen details that Ford uses to depict Bascombe’s habits and thoughts, as well as the endearingly meandering interior monologues that capture Bascombe’s attempts to make sense of his own life. And Ford is a great stylist, too—features of life that would otherwise seem mundane become much less so when described with such gorgeous sentences.

I’m also intermittently working through a reading of all of Herman Melville’s novels in order of publication—up until recently I’d only read Moby-Dick, Pierre, and The Confidence-Man, none of which I believe I fully understood at the time. It turns out that Moby-Dick (which I just reread in January) makes much more sense, and is much easier to get into, if you’ve read the novels that Melville wrote before it: especially, you can see glimmers of Melville’s grand project gestating in the two previous novels Redburn and White-Jacket, which are more accessible warm-ups that can prepare you for tackling his masterpiece.

And I just received a shipment of books that I’m looking forward to digging into—The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (I purchased it primarily because of its interesting cover); A Dark Matter by Peter Straub (because it’s been a while since I’ve read a horror novel); The Death of American Virtue by Ken Gormley (I never was able to make sense of the Bill Clinton/Ken Starr scandal, and I’m hoping this book will do it for me); and The Room and the Chair by Lorraine Adams (which got a nice write-up in the most recent issue of Bookforum). But I probably buy twice as many books as I have the time to read—there are worse habits to have.
Learn more about The Dream of Perpetual Motion and its author at Dexter Palmer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue