Book Review: ‘How to Read a Novelist,’ by John Freeman

January 25, 2014 

“How to Read a Novelist” by John Freeman.


How to Read a Novelist

John Freeman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 384 pages

John Freeman’s new collection, the cheekily titled “How to Read a Novelist,” contains 55 author interviews published in various newspapers and magazines over the past 13 years. Former editor of the literary journal Granta, he lays out his approach in an introductory essay called “U and Me: The Hard Lessons of Idolizing John Updike.”

“The only thing an interviewer can do to capture what a novelist does,” he writes, “is to make them talk and tell stories, and think aloud. These are not meant to be definitive life profiles but rather glimpses spied through a moving window.”

Through that window we spy some of the all-time greats, including Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, A.S. Byatt, Norman Mailer and Updike. We visit with younger stars including Dave Eggers, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Safran Foer. International novelists, including Libya’s Hisham Matar, China’s Mo Yan and Indonesia’s Ayu Utami, are well represented. Freeman is an omnivorous consumer of literature; reading through this collection, it’s easy to wonder when and how he does anything but read novels, talk to their authors and tell us what they said.

Dallas Morning News

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