Sunday, October 17, 2010

Darin Strauss

Darin Strauss is the international bestselling author of the New York Times Notable books Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy, and the national bestseller More Than It Hurts You. Also a screenwriter, he is adapting Chang and Eng with Gary Oldman, for Disney. The recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction writing, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU's creative writing program.

His new book is Half a Life.

Recently I asked him what he as reading. His reply:
I re-read two stories that go well together. Babel's "My First Fee" and VS Pritchett's "The Diver." In Babel's story, the narrator -- a virginal would-be writer -- convinces an old hooker to give him a freebie for an interesting reason: he improvises, telling her his first story. "My First Fee" was written in the 1920's. And a few years later, Pritchett wrote "The Diver" -- virginal would-be writer convinces an older woman to sleep with him; he does so by telling his first story. I've never seen the Babel and the Pritchett compared. But VSP had to know "My First Fee." Pritchett read and reviewed Babel. The reason I now read them both is -- they're both great, and for all the surface similarities, they are quite different stories. It shows how one can be healthily influenced , but still remain oneself -- not an imitator.

I'm in a duel-op mode, I guess. Also reading Updike's Marry Me with Tom Perotta's Little Children. Two stories of suburban infidelity. Updike is a world-class noticer; the prose is lovely, but the plot sags. Perotta's book is a perfectly-constructed, reader-loving machine. If you could combine the two novels, you'd have the greatest infidelity novel of all time. And that's what a writer should be: a cuisinart, pureeing your favorite ingredients to make your own stew.
Visit Darin Strauss's website.

The Page 99 Test: Half a Life.

--Marshal Zeringue