5 Questions with Jane Smiley, Author of THE QUESTIONS THAT MATTER MOST

Jul 6, 2023

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her novel Some Luck was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award. She has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper’s, and the Nation. Her most recent novel, A Dangerous Business, was published in 2022. She lives in Carmel Valley, California.

City Lights in conjunction with Heyday Books presents Jane Smiley in conversation with Steve Wasserman celebrating the publication of The Questions that Matter Most: Reading, Writing, and the Exercise of Freedom by Jane Smiley, published by Heyday Books. This event will be held in Kerouac Alley, between Columbus and Grant Avenues, and City Lights and Vesuvio Cafe. Admission is free to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. This event will not be broadcast live, but an audio recording will be made to be posted on our podcast site.

Where are you writing to us from?
Carmel Valley, east of Monterey.

What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?
Making jokes, taking walks in the great weather we’ve been having, working on a new, and rather puzzling, project, horses, and cooking dinner (always an important event in our house).

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
Each of the essays or stories was inspired by different writers–Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marguerite of Navarre (author of The Heptameron), David Lodge, the Mitford sisters. As for how I started out as an author, I would have to say the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. And a great inspiration was my family’s love of humorous

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?
Path to Grace, by Ethel Morgan Smith (soon to be published), Genealogy of a Murder, by Lisa Belkin, and End Times, by Peter Turchin.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
Right between a very large public high school and an equally large public middle school, and I would specialize in banned books.

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