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Diane Johnson Wishes More Authors Would Write About Friendship

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Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I’m not sure I can separate the two. Intellectual excitement is an emotion.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

Well, detective fiction; what are the others? Or if you mean fiction versus nonfiction more generally, I find I read less fiction than I used to.

How do you organize your books?

Alphabetically by author, though this is hard to stick to.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

The Quran? The C.I.A. manuals I found discarded in an alley, that led to my novel “Lulu in Marrakech”?

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Voracious, like most kids who grow up to be writers. My childhood loves were Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini, after I outgrew Nancy Drew, Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. I didn’t really outgrow them, of course. I also had a book of poems called “Silver Pennies,” and of course, “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” Some childhood favorites are now forbidden for political incorrectness — for instance, about the brave little boy who saved his family from being eaten by tigers, and another about some children who lived in the South before the Civil War.

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

As I said, I read much more nonfiction, criticism, art history — history in general — and much less fiction now.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

A relatively unknown but urbane and I imagine great talker, Mina Curtiss (“Other People’s Letters”), Proust and Henry James.


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