David Guterson, novelist: 'I admire Graham Greene's unpretentious approach to storytelling'


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm at home. I can see a field of tall grass behind a split-rail cedar fence through the window to my right. It's seven in the morning and I'm listening to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album.

What are you currently reading?

The Fundamentalist Mindset, by Charles Strozier, David M. Terman and James W. Jones. A selection of the Upanishads, which are mostly impenetrable. And Roget's Illusion, a collection of poems by Linda Bierds.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

Graham Greene. I admire his straightforward and unpretentious approach to storytelling. And Javier Marías, for his charming surprises and extraordinary convolutions.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's a long, second- floor rectangle with a shiplap ceiling, schoolhouse fixtures, and tall windows. I keep a lot of knick-knacks around– jars of sea glass, odd bits of rock.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Neil Countryman, the first person narrator of my novel The Other. We are the same age, reside in the same part of the world, attended the same university, have both worked as public high-school English teachers, and ponder life in similar fashion.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I have a lot of respect for [spiritual teachers] Thich Nhat Hanh, Eknath Easwaran, and [humanitarian physician/anthropologist] Dr Paul Farmer. They all figured out how to be effectively humane. They embody wisdom.

David Guterson's latest book of short stories, 'Problems with People', is published by Bloomsbury on 14 August