Read Something of Thrilling Quality

One of the best ways to get started writing is to read something of thrilling quality. I never read poetry or fiction, and anything that smacks of usefulness—science or biography—is off-limits. Essentially, I read literary essays. I like super-arrogant, high-level, brainy essays about aesthetics. I had a Nabokov jag for a couple of years: his Lectures on Literature. Kundera has two beautiful books of essays. There’s also Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Herbert has that wonderful book Still Life with Bridal. Brodsky is another one. And Benjamin. Hannah Arendt’s introduction to Benjamin. I love introductions. It’s a category in itself. All of my writers read Kafka, but I don’t read Kafka. I only have an interest in reading people who write about reading him.