Edan Lepucki’s Favorite Place to Read Is In the Tub

From a New York Times By the Book interview headlined “Edan Lepucki’s Favorite Place to Read Is in the Tub”:

What books are on your night stand?

“The Book of Goose,” by Yiyun Li; “Lighthead,” by Terrance Hayes; “Reich for Beginners,” by David Zane Mairowitz; “Froodle,” by Antoinette Portis; “Stories I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You,” by Andy Romanoff. Beneath this pile lies an unbound manuscript of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s forthcoming novel, “The Tree Doctor.” I loved it so much that I can’t bear to toss it.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

In 2022 I read Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” and told anyone who would listen how beautiful, moving and immersive it is. What a sense of place! I’ve since been making my way through his oeuvre; the man wrote a lot of books, so it’ll take me a while. McMurtry reportedly had a sweatshirt made for himself that read MINOR REGIONAL NOVELIST. I’d like one too, please.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

I’m more of a plot hound than some other writers I know, but not so much so that I can overlook a rash of clunky sentences or a cliché pileup.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

My favorite place to read is in the tub, and I do so nightly. Have you ever smoked a joint and read Toni Morrison’s “Sula” in a very hot bath, reveling in a single, rich paragraph for what feels like an hour? If not, may I suggest you try it?

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

The late Carolyn See wrote unique novels that were always surprising and somewhat deranged — in the best way. I wish more readers would rediscover the vicious mother-daughter relationship in “Rhine Maidens.” It’s 1970s California (and Coalinga, Calif., no less!), which is basically catnip for me.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Margaret Atwood, Rachel Aviv, Brit Bennett, Anne Carson, Dan Chaon, Ted Chiang, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Gillian Flynn, Angela Garbes, Katherine Heiny, Michelle Huneven, Samantha Irby, Edward P. Jones, Patrick Radden Keefe, Lydia Kiesling, Laura Lippman, Attica Locke, Ling Ma, Wesley Morris, Sharon Olds, Parul Sehgal, George Saunders, Danzy Senna, Diane Seuss, Dana Spiotta, Susan Straight, Jia Tolentino, Charles Yu … oh, I could go on!

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

Since a single book takes me years to write, I can’t imagine altering my reading drastically. That said, I try to avoid anything that resembles the content of my book project. When I was working on “California,” for instance, I avoided postapocalyptic stories, and when I was writing “Time’s Mouth” I stayed away from time travel and cult narratives. I don’t want to accidentally crib someone else’s book!

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

I had a shirt made with a picture of Joy Williams’s story collection “Taking Care” printed across the front. Imagine my surprise when, at Chuck E. Cheese with my three kids on a Saturday, a random dad came up to me to discuss my shirt, and Joy Williams. It was, no doubt, the best conversation that this particular Chuck E. Cheese has heard in a long time.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

I love when writers write about bodies, about how it feels to carry those bodies through the world.

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

I love good old literary fiction where scene is just an excuse for characters to think about their lives, where revelation counts as plot. I also love a genre I’ll call “viciously clever woman makes bad decisions” as well as the “funny/sad” genre.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

The summer before my junior year of college I returned home to Los Angeles and worked at Book Soup bookstore in West Hollywood. My co-worker Patrick and I became fast friends, going to the movies, to dinner, to parties, and, of course, sharing book recommendations. Right before I left to go back to school, he gave me a copy of “Goodbye, Columbus,” by Philip Roth. On the title page he wrote, “Edan, For the summer — Thanks.” I was done for. We’re married now.

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

Every couple of months my favorite group of Los Angeles women writers gets together for dinner and drinks: Jade Chang, Janelle Brown, Rufi Thorpe, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Stephanie Danler. Their talent is staggering, as is the love I feel for them. We are supportive of each other, and transparent about sticky career stuff, and we always laugh so hard — and eat so well. I’m taking our confessions and trash talk to the grave.

Whom would you want to write your life story?

Robert Caro, call me!

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