Elizabeth McCracken, novelist: 'Grace Paley was as spectacular a human being as a writer'


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I am sitting in my new house (we moved in last month), my laptop on my knees, looking at a lizard that has attached itself to the screen window: he's waiting for one of the moths the light attracts. It's an amazing thing, to watch a lizard fold a moth into its mouth, like a sword swallower who specialises in umbrellas.

What are you currently reading?

A terrific collection of stories by Jack Livings called The Dog, which will be published in the US next month.

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

I always go back to Carson McCullers, who writes about the private lives of her characters with such love and ruthlessness. I feel the same way about Mary Gaitskill.

Describe the room where you usually write

I work in my office on the campus of the University of Texas. It's the sort of place described as "book-lined", but it's recently tipped over into "fire-hazard" territory. I have my grandfather's armchair, recently recovered, and the desk chair I bought for myself 24 years ago, when I was about to write my first book. My desk's small, and it's all right, though the largest drawer smells like the bowels of hell when you open it. I keep it closed, and empty.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Lucy from Peanuts.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Grace Paley. I could have easily chosen her as my favorite author, but she was as spectacular a human being as a writer.

Elizabeth McCracken's latest book, 'Thunderstruck & Other Stories', is published by Jonathan Cape