Khakpour loves the 19th-century novel and the absurdist 20th-century novel equally.
Question: Which writers influenced you most?
Khakpour: I would say that other than the . . . Great 19th century novelists – you know the Europeans definitely. The same books everyone has read. And you know I could go on about Tolstoy, ___________, you know the Brontes, Dickens, all those guys. But I would say the writers that have probably influenced me the most – maybe not in terms of my actual writing style, but in terms of me being excited about writing and wanting to be a part of that world – would be the American writers of . . . the American experimentalists actually. And that . . . By that I mean great writers like Thomas Pynchon, and Don _________, and David Foster Wallace – writers who have earned that slightly unfortunate tag “Meta Fiction” you know? And the absurdists, the hysterical realists, those guys. It’s sort of strangely a boys club. But the . . . They’re . . . You know when I . . . When I started reading David Foster Wallace, I felt so excited. I might have been in college, and I just felt like, you know, here’s a big nerd who thinks the way I think and wants to have fun at the same time as being smart. The play in those books is just endlessly, endlessly interesting to me. You know I find it very oppressive when people say, you know, “So and so is a great story teller.” I cringe a little bit at the idea of storytelling and just saying, you know, “Well this novel, it’s just an amazing story.” I don’t think story is enough. I think we forget that sometimes. Craft is not just . . . I think of myself as a language writer, and the style of the prose was . . . I’ll say thinking about the style of the prose in my novel was . . . took just as much energy if not more than the actual story. The story is fairly classical than the story that’s been told before, but the prose I think isn’t. So I had to create a style of prose in the same way that I felt David Foster Wallace did, or Thomas Pynchon, or those writers. I’m really interested in the art of fiction. I don’t just believe in character, plot, theme.