I still find it surprising when writers I admire say yes to my interview requests. Andrew Sean Greer is one of those writers. He's our writer, a Bay Area writer, and he's always struck me as someone you'd like to have around, someone who, as he says, is "game for a mysterious adventure."
RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
Andrew Sean Greer: I'm finishing the third draft of a novel called "Many Worlds" that is a literary novel set in multiple universes. As for these characters, I finally get to have some people with a sense of humor!
RQD: What art or artists have an effect on your work?
ASG: Poetry and painting has the greatest effect on me; poetry because they are doing the hard work down in the mines, and what they bring up always inspires my own work, and painting because there is something about the intensity of the painted flat surface that mesmerizes and moves me outside all reason. I find portraits to be fascinating. But for intensity, something like Cy Twombly or Serra's recent show of drawings at the Met really do it for me. Big overpowering movement. Cleverness does nothing for me; emotion is all I'm interested in with art. That probably goes for fiction as well.
RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?
ASG: Now I don't return to things because I love them; I return to them because they help my writing. These are related but not the same. And I'd say Proust and Grace Paley and Wallace Stevens. They always knock my socks off and get me going.
RQD: What are you reading now?
ASG: I'm reading Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium
RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
ASG: I read antique children's fiction--you know, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and Tom Sawyer, and the Boxcar Children and all that--that gradually turned into fantasy and science fiction and then turned into philosophical fiction by high school like Camus. Strangely enough, I still find those old books satisfying in ways that sci fi and even Camus are not, anymore. I think it's the quality of the writing and characterization. And the sense of people game for a mysterious adventure!
Drawing: Richard Serra "Late September" 2001