I am so excited to have Meghan Daum as the first author featured. And it's not just because we went to the same school (Vassar), or because she wrote one of my all time favorite essays My Misspent Youth, but because if I told her that on a rainy Sunday in Singapore there is nothing I like better than checking out houses for sale on Martha's Vineyard (or in Tuscany...does it really matter?) I have a feeling she would understand. In fact, the obsession with real estate is the subject of her most recent book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House. A book that, needless to say, I completely identified with and devoured in two days. And yes, Mom, a copy is in the mail.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from even before I could write. When I was about three or four, I would obsessively draw pictures that told stories. I'd make them into books and then make my mother write the words according to my dictation. As I got older I realized my two big talents were playing the oboe and writing. And given that choice writing seemed like the more pragmatic path.
How much of what you write is autobiographical?
It depends on the nature of the project. Much of my efforts center around my weekly newspaper column, which I guess is autobiographical in that I'm drumming up my own ideas and expressing them. But ultimately it's much more about society in general and the world at large. I wrote a novel, The Quality of Life Report, that a lot of people thought was autobiographical. I used to say it was "32.9 percent autobiographical" (or something like that). But really the parts that were most me were the ruminations and observations of the main character, who was actually quite different from me in many ways. As for personal essays, obviously they're autobiographical, though my rule is that they must transcend the merely personal and talk about larger ideas. The way I think of autobiography is that I use myself and my experiences as a tool for talking about more general phenomena. In other words, I'm a tool.
What is your writing routine?
My writing routine is, basically, avoid work until I'm right up against my deadline and then kill myself to get it done. I will then tell myself I'll never, ever let that happen again and will instead begin well ahead of the deadline and work steadily and sanely to render a perfect product. But that has never once happened.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I'm working on a book of new essays, loosely based around the theme of American sentimentality. It will be a bit in the same vein as my previous collection, My Misspent Youth, but whereas many of these essays had been published previously in magazines these will be almost entirely original. Some of the topics include death, patriotism, food, animals, and children.
What is on your night table?
On my night table right now is the inevitable stack of New York Review of Books that I have not and perhaps will never get around to reading. On top of that is David Rakoff's Half Empty, which I read much of long ago but am really enjoying revisiting, a galley of a new essay collection called This Is Running for Your Life by Michelle Orange, the David Foster Wallace biography by D.T. Max, and a bunch of tissues and errant earplugs. Probably also a section of the New York York Times from, like, three months ago.
You can also catch Meghan at http://meghandaum.com/
For now, that's all from the book lover's corner: happy reading!