Where are you from?
New York City
Who are your favorite writers?
Michael Lewis, Norman Mailer, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Steinbeck, John McPhee, Jill Lepore, David Remnick, Jon Krakauer, George Orwell, Graham Greene
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song and The Armies of the Night, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action, and Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
I am endlessly fascinated by jazz, wine and the culinary arts. I love to eat and travel. I’m also condemned to a life of caring about the New York Mets.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
When I was at the Washington Post and Steve Coll was the managing editor, he used to talk about “sitting still inside the story,” meaning hanging around long after the typical reporting was done to see what happens. That’s always worth remembering. And whoever uttered those now-clichéd words, “show, don’t tell,” understood something elemental about the craft of journalism.
What is your favorite quote?
I like John Maynard Keynes’s line that, in the long run, “we’re all dead.”
What inspired you to write your first book?
I met some people at a job center in Oakland who were motivated and eager for work yet encountering rejection at every turn. It forced me to reexamine my fundamental understanding of the American economy and see that a lot of hard-working, intelligent people are being left behind.
Where do you write?
Everywhere, but mostly at my desk at work, or in my office at home, plus in a thousand hotel rooms, on a million airplanes and departure gates, every now and again on my smart phone. Basically, wherever I happen to be when news is happening and must be typed up.