Andrew Sean Greer is an American novelist and short-story writer. The New York Times called his 2008 novel The Story of a Marriage “lyrical” and “inspired.” His first novel, 2001’s The Path of Minor Planets, was well received, and his second, 2004’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli, earned him comparisons to Proust and Nabokov from critic John Updike. His stories have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and other national publications. Born in Washington, D.C., Greer received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his master’s degree from the University of Montana. He currently resides in San Francisco. Greer was so well received as an undergrad that his classmates elected him the commencement speaker, for his own graduation.
Andrew Sean Greer:
I was raised Unitarian and my mother said she took us to church so that we wouldn’t get religious later in life. Both my parents were atheists and my grandmother was an atheist in rural Kentucky and so they were trying to make sure that my brother and I would be atheists too and it worked, which doesn’t mean that they didn’t teach us a lot of wonder of science and of nature and the world and all of that. I think they gave us all of that, but they are both highly skeptical people and I got that.
Question:Were there any complications to being a kid atheist?
Andrew Sean Greer: There didn’t seem to be. No. The only problem was that my mother’s parents were Southern Baptists and devout and it was very upsetting them to the idea that we didn’t believe in God, so I told them that I did because I thought that was really cruel because they were worried that we would go to Hell. My grandmother asked me once, she said, “I don’t care about anything except that you tell me you believe in God,” and so I said I did.
Question: Do your characters struggle with religion?
Andrew Sean Greer: I think in this next one I’m working on for sure because it’s definitely reared its head in modern day talking. I just came from an interview where Lewis Black was coming in right after me and I had met him before and we talked about all of this and it’s everywhere. Everyone is talking. There’s, of course, a huge evangelical movement recently and now there’s an atheist movement that often seems to me, I was raised to be really nice to people and kind about their beliefs and so a lot of it seems overly self-righteous oddly in the same way that evangelicals are. Whereas I just don’t believe in any of that stuff, but I’m not mad about it.