Ward Just's latest novel, Rodin's Debutante,
is available March 1, 2011, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His 16 previous
novels include Exiles in the Garden; Forgetfulness; National Book Award finalist Echo House; A Dangerous Friend, winner
of the Cooper Prize for fiction from the Society of American Historians; and An
Unfinished Season, winner of the Chicago
Tribune Heartland Award and a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.
On your nightstand now:
A Happy Death
by Albert Camus, Purgatorio by Dante
Alighieri, and a two-week-old copy of the London
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Hardy Boys series by Franklin
W. Dixon, wonderfully goodhearted yet exciting boys' stories. Some skullduggery
and derring-do by boys a few years older than you are. Best thing about it, the
parents are virtually absent, leaving the boys room to maneuver. Also, they
drove fast cars.
Your top five authors:
Oddly enough, three of us were
debating that very subject the other evening round about midnight well into a
third bottle of Bordeaux. My own selections were Hemingway, Fitzgerald,
Melville and W.G. Sebald. Much dispute concerning number 5. I myself swung to
and fro among Phillip Roth, the early John le Carré and the short stories of
Book you've faked reading:
Book you're an evangelist for:
The novels of Kent Haruf, a writer
from the American Plains; his books are written in a wonderfully austere manner
about people only barely hanging on. Also, A
Very Long Engagement by the French novelist Sebastian Japrisot, a
tremendously vivid story of a romance cut short by the First World War. It was
made into a movie which, while not bad, does not approach the original.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Anais Nin's rompish bit of
pornography called The Birds.
Book that changed your life:
When I was 13 years old, living on
the north shore of Chicago, my mother gave me a copy of the just-published
collected short stories of F. Scot Fitzgerald. It was a revelation. I think I
never thanked her properly, but it was an inspired selection. A book just a bit
above my head but not so far as to be unreachable.
Favorite line from a book:
There are so many of these. The
last lines from Joyce's The Dead; the
last few sentences from Gatsby; "Mother
died today, or was it yesterday," from The
Stranger, a reference--I always thought given the date of publication--to
the death of Europe. Hemingway's "Isn't it pretty to think so?" from The Sun Also Rises. And of course: "For
a long time, I went to bed early," or whatever translation of Proust you
prefer, there being a dozen or more.
Book you most want to read again for
the first time:
The Great Gatsby,
Your favorite place to write:
Paris, hands down, despite the
very many distractions--long lunches, late nights, celebrated museums, street
demonstrations, visiting firemen, the euro. Or, perhaps, because of all of
these things--with the exception of the euro.