|photo: Paul Duda
Anthony Marra is the author of The Tsar of Love and Techno and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, winner of the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and longlisted for the National Book Award. His third novel, Mercury Pictures Presents (Hogarth, August 2, 2022), is a historical novel with humor and resilient characters navigating Hollywood in the 1940s.
Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:
It's a big, transporting novel set in the European exile community that transformed Hollywood--and the country--during the 1940s.
On your nightstand now:
This fall I'm teaching a course on linked-story collections, and my nightstand is filled with some of my favorite examples of the form: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, We the Animals by Justin Torres, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips and Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat.
Favorite book when you were a child:
As a kid, I was obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes (and still am!). Bill Watterson's titles alone are little works of genius: Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, Weirdos from Another Planet!, Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons, etc. These books beautifully get at the frustrations, absurdities, embarrassments and fleeting joys of childhood. Plus who wouldn't want an urbane talking tiger for a best friend?
Your top five authors:
They change by the day, but on this Wednesday, I'll say Edward P. Jones, Zadie Smith, Jennifer Egan, Jess Walter and Michael Chabon.
Book you've faked reading:
I have too many writer friends to possibly answer this honestly.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal is a hilarious, charming, deeply weird picaresque about a Czech bellhop whose fortunes rise and fall over the 20th century. Hrabal began his career as surrealist poet, and I Served the King of England is shot through with ecstatic, unforgettable images on nearly every page. It's easily the single book I've reread the most.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I love the jackets Peter Mendelsund designed for Schocken's Kafka lineup. I bought The Trial purely because the jacket looked so cool (and the book's not half bad either!).
Book you hid from your parents:
A childhood friend had a cache of Stephen King novels that I regularly borrowed. My mom didn't think these were age-appropriate reading material. She was right, of course, which is exactly why I wanted to read them.
Book that changed your life:
Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida. When I was in third or fourth grade, my class read this classic children's book about a Japanese American girl whose family endures internment during World War II. It was the first book I'd encountered that didn't sanitize U.S. history and it made a huge impact on me.
Favorite line from a book:
"This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it." This line, from Gilead, isn't intended as writing advice, but it's the best writing advice I've ever read.
Five books you'll never part with:
Such a tough question! I'll choose those that were particularly important to me when I was first considering becoming a writer: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata, Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Anything and everything by Agatha Christie.