Where are you from?
Queens, New York.
Who are your favorite writers?
Don DeLillo, Donald Barthelme, Grace Paley, Marilynne Robinson, Max Frisch, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Bishop, W. G. Sebald, Dostoyevsky.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Underworld, The Names, DeLillo; The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky; Wise Blood, The Collected Stories, O’Connor; The Rings of Saturn, Sebald; Gilead, Robinson; Man in the Holocene, Montauk, Frisch; The Bible.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Long-distance running, and reading (I read constantly, and am sometimes referred to in my neighborhood as “the guy who walks his dog with a book in his hand”), and music (I’m constantly looking for something new and surprising and strange).
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
My father: “It’s nice to be nice.”
What is your favorite quote?
“I live sweat, but I dream light years.”–Mike Watt
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q: Do you believe in God?
A: It’s such a fascinating question, always is. But the answer, no matter what, is always a bore.
What inspired you to write your first book?
DeLillo’s Underworld, but especially the opening section, and especially in its previous novella form, Pafko at the Wall, which remains one of the greatest works of American literature (I’ve been known to passionately argue this point over margaritas). It inspired me to try and give form to a very different but no less vibrant form of American experience.
Where do you write?
Usually at home, but when I’m feeling stir crazy I almost always write at the Housing Works Bookstore Café, where the pumpkin bread is amazing, the coffee affordable, great books cover the walls, and it all goes toward a just cause. What could be better?