What's in your personal literary canon?
Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran in 1978 and raised in the Greater Los Angeles area (South Pasadena, to be exact). Her first language was Farsi, her second (and luckily mostly forgotten) tongue, Valley Girl. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MA program. She has been awarded fellowships from Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo.
She began writing as an arts and entertainment journalist—her subjects have spanned from clubs (Paul Oakenfold!) to couture (Paul Poiret!); Maggie Gyllenhaal (Maggie’s first big feature!) to Fabio (Porochista’s first feature at 16!); New York City’s finest drinking establishments (Paper magazine bar columnist, 2000-2001, as well as New York magazine online bar critic) to rural Illinois’s most dangerous skydiving compound (2004 staff writer stint at The Chicago Reader). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, Paper, Flaunt, Nylon, Bidoun, Alef, Canteen, nerve.com and FiveChapters.com, among others.
She currently spends a third of her time in New York City and two thirds three hours away in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where she teaches Fiction at Bucknell University.
Question: What’s in your personal literary canon?
Khakpour: Well I have a completely obsessive love for “Wuthering Heights” like I think many writers do. But I think it’s probably the only novel I’ve ever cared to re-read, and re-read, and re-read. I hate the idea of re-reading, but “Wuthering Heights” is a big one because the whole book is so eccentric, and so passionate, and crazy, and delirious, you know? It’s too bad the chic lit writers didn’t go by that model, because it’s a romance, you know? But it’s done in such an eccentric, wild manner. I love it. Then I would say “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, of course. That’s a big one because of the relentless innovation, and the play as well as the ___________. “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon, a big one. Boy this is a hard one. This is brutal. I’ve had three.
I would say a very important novel definitely would be Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, which I get into fights with people about because I like it better than “Midnight’s Children”. And I like it as much for the story and the prose as much as for its significance. It’s not just a book, but it’s an important cultural moment. And then . . . And then probably I would have to put a tie between two books I find similar – James Salter’s “Light Years” and Richard Yates’ “Revolutionary Road” – which I always think of hand-in-hand because they have the similar obsession. But I like that American novel. To me those are the great American novels, and I like the clean nature . . . the clean prose. It’s very different from my own, and I think I can learn a lot from that sort of writing. Yeah, I think those are it.
"Wuthering Heights" to start.
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