|photo: Josh Goldy
Matthew Binder is the author of The Absolved (Black Spot, December 5, 2018) and is the primary member of the recording project Bang Bang Jet Away. He lives in New York City.
On your nightstand now:
A friend of mine who works at the book review desk at the Times just gave me a galley of Nico Walker's Cherry. The book is getting tremendous press coverage because of Nico's backstory, which is that he's a guy from a privileged background who dropped out of college, went to war, came back with a terrible case of PTSD, and then became a prolific bank robber.
He wrote the book in jail, and he's still in jail to this day. Anyway, I like Nico's work because, while he has so clearly screwed up his life, he doesn't view himself as a victim or tell his story with any self-pity.
Favorite book when you were a child:
My elementary school library had an annual contest to see who could read the most Newbery Medal-winning books. For some reason I felt compelled to win the contest, and for my efforts my name was engraved on a plaque that hung in the library. I must've read 300 books my fourth-grade year, but for the life of me I can't remember a single one.
Your top five authors:
Simone de Beauvoir
Book you've faked reading:
I think the most "fake read" book in the past 25 years must be Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Years ago, I read 200 pages of it, but then gave up because I found it to be so boring and pretentious. Perhaps DFW is the most overrated writer of a generation?
Book you're an evangelist for:
The book I've most recommended is Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles. I'd say 50% of the people I've recommended it to loved it, and the other half either quit reading after 50 pages or admittedly hated the book.
Book you've bought for the cover:
A few years ago, I was wandering the streets of Kansas City and stumbled across a table labeled "$1-books!" Most of its volumes were romance or cookbooks, but a book titled Pluche from an obscure French writer looked interesting enough. I had a flight to catch a few hours later and needed something to read, so I paid the dollar and was on my way. Turns out, it was the best dollar I ever spent. The book's author, Jean Dutourd, made my top five list!
Book you hid from your parents:
I probably hid my school books so that I wouldn't be forced to do homework.
Book that changed your life:
The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy by Henry Miller: Sexus, Nexus and Plexus. It's 1,500 pages documenting Henry's relationship with his wife before he moved to Paris. Sexus is about their courtship. Nexus is about their briefly shared marital bliss and Plexus is about trying to figure out how to put the Atlantic Ocean between them.
Favorite line from a book:
"If you aren't rich you should always look useful." --Céline
Five books you'll never part with:
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
An American Dream by Norman Mailer
The Horrors of Love by Jean Dutourd
A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Plague by Albert Camus. For a brief second, it almost inspired me to pursue medicine.
How you began in the novel-writing business:
Years ago, I drove my friend Skip across the desert, from Albuquerque to San Diego. He was deathly ill and required absolute silence so that he could sleep. Somehow, I failed to charge my phone, so I couldn't even listen to music on headphones. To entertain myself, I plotted out a novel. By the end of the 13-hour trek, I was convinced that I had the makings of a masterpiece. I spent the next two years writing the book. Unfortunately, it turned out to be lousy and has been lost to the dustbin of history.