5 Questions with Lydia Kiesling, Author of MOBILITY: A Novel

Sep 11, 2023

Lydia Kiesling is the author of The Golden State, a 2018 National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree, a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker online, and The Cut, among other outlets. She lives in Portland, OR.

Lydia Kiesling will be in conversation with Edan Lepucki in City Lights’s Poetry Room on Tuesday, September 12 at 6:00pm PT to celebrate the publication of their new books Mobility: A Novel, published by Zando Projects, and Time’s Mouth: A Novel, published by Counterpoint Press. Register here!

Where are you writing to us from?

I am writing from Portland, Oregon, where I live.

What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?

I spent the first half of August traveling for my new book, which was exciting, but I have to come back to earth now and I’m trying to take joy from being able to get back into the daily routine. Parenting young kids is a complicated joy that also includes a lot of vexation, but being able to take care of my plants and finish some house projects (organize closets) while also returning to regular work is a source of a more one-note kind of joy.

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?

I love writers who aren’t afraid of excessive detail, maximalist language, weird tributaries, and long slogs. I respect minimalism but it’s not for me. I don’t know how much she is in the book, but Shirley Hazzard is a big inspiration of the last couple of years, as well as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy.

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?

I recently read Farah Ali’s forthcoming novel The River, The Town, which is stunningly good. I also loved Isabella Hammad’s Enter Ghost—I admire her writing so much. I’m currently reading Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck and it’s deep, weird, and very satisfying.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

Portland is blessed with many amazing bookstores so I’d never want to compete, so this is a fantasy only. It would be in an old house in my neighborhood, and it would be all secondhand books that cost two bucks, and people could bring their own beverages and sit in one of three raggedy old chairs to read, and my bestseller would be The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.

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