Book Brahmin: Dexter Palmer

Dexter Palmer's first novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, was published on March 2 by St. Martin's Press. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University and lives in Princeton, N.J.

On your nightstand now:

The Bascombe Novels, an omnibus collection by Richard Ford. Sitting beneath that is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Over the past couple of years I've also been slowly working my way through the King James Bible, with the assistance of The Oxford Bible Commentary: I'm up to Isaiah and have stalled out for the moment, but the books are still on my metaphorical nightstand, so I claim credit for them.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio. My local library had a copy that featured illustrations that had somehow managed to escape the influence of the Disney version--they were genuinely frightening, like all the best children's literature.

Your top five authors:

This list changes from day to day, but on this particular day, in no particular order (other than alphabetical), I'd say:

Isaac Asimov. I haven't read an Asimov novel in a long time, but there was about a year of my childhood when Asimov was the only novelist I read for pleasure, book after book after book. Over a yard of my shelves is made up of old Asimov paperbacks.

Joan Didion. Especially her nonfiction. I'm happy to read her writing on whatever subject she chooses.

William Gaddis. Gaddis is a writer's writer--he loves formal experimentation, and accessibility isn't the first thing on his mind--but that's not a bad thing.

Douglas Hofstadter. Gödel, Escher, Bach and Le Ton beau de Marot are great examples of how to handle interdisciplinary thinking without giving short shrift to either the arts or the sciences.

Steven Millhauser. Great prose, evocative settings, and a strange sense of humor. Edwin Mullhouse is my favorite book of his.

Book you've faked reading:

Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, multiple times in college and grad school. I'll get to it eventually. (Maybe.)
Book you're an evangelist for:

Joseph and his Brothers by Thomas Mann, translated by John E. Woods. A retelling of the Joseph story in Genesis blown up to life size, it has all the sprawling esoteric showiness of a postmodern encyclopedic novel like Infinite Jest, coupled with the meticulous discipline and structural control of a modernist work like Ulysses.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Two, actually: Desperation by Stephen King and The Regulators by King's literary alter ego, Richard Bachman. The hardcover editions had beautiful covers by Mark Ryden that formed a larger single image when placed side by side and thematically reflected the content of the two books.
Book that changed your life:

Gravity's Rainbow, a copy of which I found remaindered in a Waldenbooks in a Florida shopping mall when I was a teenager. I bought it only because it was cheap and had a cool title; years later I ended up writing one of my dissertation chapters on Pynchon.
Favorite line from a book:

Almost any line of dialogue from Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep or any other Chandler novel for that matter. ("Tall, aren't you?" "I didn't mean to be.")
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Monk by Matthew Lewis. If I re-read it I won't be nearly as shocked as I was the first time, since I'll actually be expecting--well, you know.


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