Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
BM: Favorite re-read?
SD: Justine by Lawrence Durrell and Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick. In the case of the Durrell, my aunt gave that book to me when I was in middle school and I tried to read it. I couldn’t understand it. I read it again at 16 and felt like I understood the existential and sexy parts. I’ve read it multiple times since: still sexy and tragic, but also flawed—the characters are thin (particularly the women). Despite that, I’m still intrigued by the book and will likely read it again.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
SD: Speak, Memory by Nabokov and Where I Was From by Joan Didion (maybe all Didion?). This isn’t to say that Stray mimics these books stylistically (I wish!), but just that I returned to these works when I was having problems, and they helped me move forward.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
SD: The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard. How does she do so much with so little?
BM: Last book you read?
SD: A galley of Girlhood by Melissa Febos.
BM: A book that made you cry?
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
SD: It wasn’t a book, but Gillian Flynn wrote a Corona Correspondence for The Sewanee Review (the Sewanee Review has a series of letters from writers talking about their life under quarantine) that had me laughing hours – days – after I read it.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
SD: Citizen by Claudia Rankine and Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz are reliable. They could not be more different as far as tone, but I usually keep extra copies of each around expressly for gifting.
BM: Classic book you hate?
SD: I love a lot of David Foster Wallace, I almost totally hate Infinite Jest.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
SD: I’m not sure that exists anymore due to social media! Which is great, and certainly the highest good of those platforms. Here are few I believe are under-read that I’m always recommending: Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever, Colette’s The Pure and the Impure, Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance, Carol Shields’ Small Ceremonies, Sandra Lim’s poetry collection, The Wilderness.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
SD: Oh good lord, one book of the past twenty years? I’m happy to be living and reading in a century with Rachel Cusk, Garth Greenwell, Maggie Nelson, Ocean Vuong, Jia Tolentino, Rebecca Solnit. That list goes on forever.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
SD: The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
BM: Favorite children’s book?
SD: I love all of Jamie Lee Curtis’s books—Is there Really a Human Race? is a classic, and I weep—truly, weep—when I read Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born. And I will forever gift King Baby by Kate Beaton to new parents. The tyranny of King Baby is too accurate.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
SD: I can’t tell, it’s already impossible to get the rights anything! I do daydream about making Jane Campion-style films out of the work of Shirley Hazzard. There is zero marketplace for slow period films filled with Italian gardens and lingering looks, but it’s what I want to watch.
Stephanie Danler is a writer based in Los Angeles, California.
Stephanie Danler’s Stray is out this week from Knopf