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David Gilbert, 46, was born in Paris but raised in New York. He studied at Middlebury College in Vermont and the University of Montana and is the author of a short story collection Remote Fee and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ and Bomb. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
Who is your perfect reader?
I guess myself, but that seems wrong and vaguely onanistic.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
I don’t remember, which is quite sad.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I can only tell you the capstone to this tower: How To Unclutter Your Cluttered Life.
What book changed your life?
Firestarter by Stephen King. It was the first piece of writing that really grabbed me.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
At around the age of ten. I remember telling my father. He lowered the glass of scotch from his lips and said, “You don’t know enough words to be a writer.”
What is your daily writing routine?
It’s pretty nine to five, with four hours spent contemplating what I will have for lunch.
Where do you write best?
In my office. I can only write here, which has destroyed my dreams of writing in cafés and exotic lands.
What do you snack on while you write?
I don’t eat. And then lunch comes around and I panic, the outside world having become a frightening place, and I am envious of the people who lunch so naturally.
Which literary character most resembles you?
I have to say I’m finding a lot of resemblance in Karl Ove Knausgaard – so many resemblances I sometimes think I’m secretly Norwegian.
Who are your literary influences?
Too many to name. But I love Melville, I love DeLillo and Nabokov, Proust in terms of the size and concept of that project. That’s just a small start.
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?
Whoever has a little bit of pot that they wouldn’t mind sharing.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Whoever has a lot of pot they wouldn’t mind sharing. And maybe Xanax too.
What keeps you awake at night?
Disappointing people I love.
When were you happiest?
In my mid-twenties, living in Montana.
When do you feel most free?
Listening to really good music in excellent headphones, walking the streets of New York.
How do you relax?
By watching really bad television.
What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?
Just try your best. And keep your teeth clean.
What would you change about yourself?
I would be bolder, I think, more brave.
If you could own any painting, what would it be?
That Francis Bacon that sold for $142m. I would quickly sell it and buy photography.
Can you remember the first novel you read?
I remember crying to The Cay by Theodore Taylor.
What does it mean to be a writer?
It means having a ridiculous amount of confidence and self-worth and being self-conscious enough to recognise the absolute bullshit behind that confidence and self-worth. It is a brutal yet always interesting game of ego.
David Gilbert’s latest novel is ‘& Sons’ (Fourth Estate)