Sunday, May 6, 2018

Stephen McCauley

Stephen McCauley is the author of The Object of My Affection, True Enough, and Alternatives to Sex. Many of his books have been national bestsellers, and three have been made into feature films. The New York Times Book Review dubbed McCauley “the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen”, and he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. His fiction, reviews, and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, Vogue, and many other publications. He currently serves as Co-Director of Creative Writing at Brandeis University.

McCauley's new novel is My Ex-Life.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m a totally eclectic reader in terms of time and place, but not so much in terms of genre. What I mean is, I prefer to mix up reading novels written in different decades and centuries by writers of vastly different backgrounds and countries of origins. I’ve started to read more African writers and also 20th-Century Japanese writers. On the other hand, I pretty much stick to realistic, character-driven fiction. I’m not much interested in genres such as fantasy, science fiction, horror, and even mystery. I wish I were. I see it as a lack of imagination on my part, but I gave up trying to force myself to read books that don’t grab me. Life is too short. I’ve also started to do more rereading than I used to. Since I read more for character than story, it doesn’t bother me that I know what’s going to happen.

I just finished The Sparsholt Affair, the brand new novel by Alan Hollinghurst. He’s one of my favorite living writers. Pretty much every sentence he writes has some arresting detail or witty insight into people. This particular novel spans many decades, and Hollinghurst makes incredibly bold choices about how he leaps ahead in time and what he choose to not tell the reader. The ending is deeply moving.

I’m in the middle of A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell. She was a midcentury American novelist whose reputation was resurrected by Gore Vidal in the 1980’s. The novel is set in 1940’s New York, just before the US enters WWII. Powell is amazingly funny and unsparing in her approach to human foibles—especially greed, pretentiousness, and mendacity. The book is filled with vivid scenes of people behaving badly, but it’s redeemed by Powell’s underlying understanding of longing and loneliness and a few moments of real tenderness.

When I’m driving or at the gym, I listen to audiobooks. Right now I’m listening to Juliet Stevenson reading Persuasion by Jane Austen. It’s my favorite Austen novel, with one of her most sympathetic characters—Anne Elliot—and Stevenson’s reading of it is flawless.
Visit Stephen McCauley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue