Winner of the 1996 National Book Award for fiction for her story collection Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett will be appearing at the Central Library’s Montgomery Auditorium tomorrow, Thursday, October 11, at 7:00 p.m. (Also appearing as part of the same program will be celebrated novelist Claire Messud, author of When the World Was Steady and The Emperor’s Children ; this event is free--no tickets required.) Ms. Barrett’s latest novel, The Air We Breathe, was published last week. She recently took a moment to chat with us about some of our favorite topics.
What role have libraries played in your life?
Libraries have been, at different times in my life, school, home, refuge: everything important. Places where I could find the nourishment I needed, the books I craved; I still spend an enormous amount of time in them, everything from my local public library to the college library where I teach, to special archives and libraries all around the country.
What was your favorite childhood book?
I had lots of favorites, but I especially loved A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and anything about people exploring in the Arctic or the Antarctic.
What made you think you could be a writer?
Nothing did, when I was young; I didn’t meet a living writer until I was well into my twenties, and I didn’t really understand that a person could be a writer. But I read so much, so constantly and so happily, that once I grasped that actual living female people could be writers, it wasn’t a huge leap to try it myself.
Who are the three authors you think everyone should be required to read--which books would you start with?
Three--only three? Impossible to make such a short list. But who could live without Ovid’s Metamorphoses, or George Eliot’s Middlemarch, or Shakespeare’s plays?
If you couldn’t write, what other job would you like to have?