Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Lydia Millet, Talks Shop With Chicago Literati

Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Lydia Millet, Talks Shop With Chicago Literati

Pulitzer Prize finalist, Lydia Millet, writes about the most unorthodox things in the most beautiful way. I’m always moved by her ability to make me see the most strange and unusual things in a different light. Undoubtedly, the mark of a great writer is their ability to make you see things from a different perspective, and Lydia Millet does this in spades.

I’m honored to share with you an exclusive interview I did with her, and I hope you’ll all take the time to read the book that got her nominated for an L.A. Times Book Prize. The book is called, Magnificence, and it tells the story of a woman who inherits a sweeping mansion and a large collection of taxidermy. It’s available here: http://www.amazon.com/Magnificence-A-Novel-Lydia-Millet/dp/0393081702.

I hope you all enjoy Millet’s answers as much as I did.

 Who or what inspires you?

I’m a perpetual inspiration to myself. Just constant. At times it’s wearing, that shining light of ME, but I struggle, I struggle, and I bear up.

What is your favorite part about writing?

The part where you can roam the landscape of the mind willy-nilly. And don’t have to deal with committees, other people’s opinions. You’re like a ravening beast, wandering out there, over those hills and those valleys. You rush through the night glowing. You make whatever sounds. Emit noises. And no one can ever know. They can’t stop you. There’s nothing they can do.

You write with such innovative style, can you tell me more about your process?

The flattery is much appreciated. Right now my process is like purse-snatching, when I have a moment free I try to grab the valuables and run. I feel lucky to make it across the street without an old lady screaming at me. Because, let’s face it, she’d have every right to.

What is your favorite word? Why?

I have to admit it’s probably “poignant.” That’s the word my loved ones associate with me. It just happened. I never meant it to. But it’s my fault, since I kept saying it. No one could get me to shut up, where poignancy was concerned, and now I’m stuck with it. It’s an awkward word, even ugly, technically, aesthetically that word is pretty much a writhing can of worms. It contains multitudes.

What made you want to be a writer?

Partly, growing up reading a lot, loving books and so forth, just as you might expect. Partly, failing to be an opera singer.

Who are your heroes?

Those who toil and die thanklessly.

 If you were a color, what color would you be?

I’m white. There’s a little yellowish tint, maybe some pink, a sallow beige-y quality. But I’m white, there’s no way around it. I’d prefer to be a beautiful, ageless mocha, purely on a looks basis I’d go in that direction if I could, but that’s genetics for you.

Your novel, Everyone’s Pretty, was released through the indie press, Soft Skull, what was that experience like?

That experience was like Richard Nash. Still a very close friend. I love him.

What is your favorite breed of dog? Why?

Pug. See answer to “favorite word,” above.

 What is your favorite short story? What is your favorite book?

When it comes to art I don’t like picking favorites. If there were one book that trumped the others, we could all go home and simply worship it in silence. Oh, people do that, don’t they? I believe it’s called religion. But not me. I do adore, for instance, Joy Williams’ story about Baba Yaga.

Who are your favorite authors?

See above. Can I tell you a pet peeve, instead? Here’s my pet peeve: book reviewers who write things like “This is the best book you’ll read all year.” People who write things like that shouldn’t be writing at all, probably. They should be selling weird appliances on TV. For $19.99.

What have your experiences taught you?

Ah. Indeed.

 What is your favorite time of day (or night) to write?

In practical fact, whenever there aren’t other things that I’m required to do. But if I could fully choose, I might pick la madrugada. That time of night/morning when you wake up and feel the inevitability of death, the terrible pain of loss. Or you regret your personality. It’d be good to use that time more enjoyably.

 What inspires you more: food, wine or music?

Inspires me to what, is the question. Food inspires me to eat it; wine and music inspire me to make a fool of myself. I guess, purely quantitatively, then, in terms of their broader impact, it’d have to be wine or music. Food doesn’t cut such a wide swath of self-humiliation.

If you were a season, which season would you be?

Endless summer, baby. Endless summer. There I am, riding the waves off Kauai. You wouldn’t believe my skills.

What brings you joy?

The sky.

 Lydia Millet is the author of eight novels and a book of short stories, as well as two books for older children. She lives in the desert outside Tucson, Ariz.


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