|photo by Keith Price
Yona Zeldis McDonough is Brooklyn bred (though not born) and after studying at Vassar College and several years in Manhattan, she returned to Brooklyn (this time Park Slope), where she has lived with her husband, two children and a passel of small, yappy dogs for the last 20 years. She is the author of many children's books and five adult novels; the most recent, Two of a Kind (published this week by NAL), is set largely in her home borough. It's a second-chance-at-love story and also an interfaith romance story; one of the characters is Christian and the other Jewish. She has thought about that issue a lot, especially since she made one of those marriages herself. What do you keep? What can you give up? What about the kids?
On your nightstand now:
I'm a serial reader, with a handful of books open and waiting at any one time. I flit in and out of them like a drunken bee in a garden. Right now, I'm reading A Rose in the Heart (Edna O'Brien), What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Nathan Englander), My Antonia (Willa Cather), Tender Is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and The Mermaid Collector (Erika Marks). I hope to finish them all soon.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Only one? Not fair! In no particular order, my childhood faves were Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery), Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher), Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfeild), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett). I read all of these multiple times.
Your top five authors:
Three are named William: Blake, Shakespeare and Yeats. To these I would add Flannery O'Connor and Colette.
Book you've faked reading:
I read the first 200 pages of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time and had to put it down. I found it airless to the point of suffocation and could not continue. I never claimed to have finished it but then again, I've never admitted that I have not. An older friend told me that no under the age of 60 could truly appreciate Proust. So maybe my time has not yet come.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Bird Catcher by Laura Jacobs--a lush, gorgeously written book filled with the most stunning description of the artistic process I've ever read.
Book you've bought for the cover:
A copy of The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Ghost Stories by Rudyard Kipling that was published in 1898. The cover is a beautiful pumpkin color with embossed golden vines and red and white flowers.
Book that changed your life:
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. I first read this when I was about 11, and when I finished it, I burst into the most scalding tears I had ever cried over something that had not happened to me. Reading that novel taught me that literature had that power, and I have been seeking it--as both reader and writer--ever since.
Favorite lines from a book:
"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita." --From Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I was spellbound by the manic, propulsive energy in T.C. Boyle's Greasy Lake and Other Stories, and I would so love to experience that wild ride afresh.