For the past few months, I’ve completed a book a week as part of a reading challenge that’s proving rigorous but delightful. I’ve regained some of the uncomplicated joy of reading I remember from my childhood when books were my home base, a place I always wanted to go back to. If I were to re-read a book just to spend more time with its characters.
I had that experience with Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award in February. I first read the book last winter, but I’ve recently found myself wondering about one of his characters, Reese, a transgender woman trying to decide whether to start a family with her ex and her ex’s new girlfriend. I tended to text Reese like she was a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long time.
I never tire of hearing inspiration from artists or getting recommendations from creative people whose work I love. So I asked Peters about the culture she’s been excited about lately. I reached her by phone at her home in Brooklyn, where she recently returned from a winter in Colombia before embarking on book trips to the US and Europe this spring.
“I’m obsessed with this book Independent People by Halldor Laxness,” Peters told me. The 1930s novel explores the life of an Icelandic sheep farmer. “You start reading about The Sheep Farmer and you think it’s the most boring book in the world,” said Peters. But she grew fond of it. She was particularly drawn to Laxness’s warmth for his characters and the loving way he poked fun at her.
Appreciating “the warmth and the humor and the ridiculousness” of the book “requires a kind of focus that I don’t think is fashionable,” Peters said.
She finds laxness and the demands it places on readers inspirational in her own work. “I spend a lot of time thinking, ‘How can I do the Halldor Laxness thing, but how can I do it for people who are on Twitter all day? Who grew up with Tarantino?’”
Wake up early
Peters gets up at 5:30 am and reads by candlelight; On a good day, she might read for two hours. Then she tunes in to computer scientist and writer Cal Newport’s Deep Questions podcast. “It’s like having a work coach who just gives you a light reprimand in the background,” she said.
When it’s warm, she goes to the water to watch the sun. Because of the location of her Brooklyn neighborhood, Peters said, she couldn’t directly see it rising. “But you can see the sunrise in the reflections on the buildings, and it’s almost more beautiful than the sunrise,” she said. “It’s like watching the sunrise through a broken mirror.”
Looking for puff pastry
Peters is a croissant connoisseur and has strong opinions on fillings. “I’m very much against pistachios in croissants,” she said. “But if you completely reinvent the croissant and put halloumi in it, I’ll take that.”
After our conversation, Peters wrote in an email that she was looking forward to reading Bad Girls, the English translation of a novel by Argentine writer Camila Sosa Villada, which is due out in May. The book is about a group of transgender sex workers who find and adopt an abandoned baby, “which in some ways seems like a counterpoint to ‘detransition, baby,'” she wrote.
What are you reading or watching or cooking or listening to that has gotten you excited about lately? Write me a message and let me know.
WEEKENDS ARE FOR…
🎧 Podcast: Six to help navigate the weirdnesses of everyday life.
🚙 car rides: Holidaymakers rarely stop at high petrol prices.
🎥 Documentaries: In our streaming picks, a Japanese WWII veteran single-mindedly follows the news of the fate of his comrades.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
What you get for $630,000: An 1893 home outside of New Orleans, a bungalow in Tujunga, California, or an Edwardian home in Cincinnati.
The hunt: Southern California rents came as a shock to these Midwestern transplants. Which home did you choose? Play our game.
World through a lens: skip mowing; help the bees.
“Small wins”: After the attempts of the last few years, more and more people are reaching for treats.
Fridays off: Some employers attract talent by offering shorter work weeks.
Addiction help: A psychedelic drug is emerging as an effective treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Duke vs. North Carolina, NCAA Men’s Final Four: Somehow, college basketball’s greatest rivals had never before met at an NCAA tournament. Duke and North Carolina – which are about 10 miles apart – bring the grudge of a century into this matchup for a place in the national title fight. As if that wasn’t enough intrigue, this is also the final season for Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke’s Hall of Fame. Last month, North Carolina spoiled their last home game. Will the tar heels also end his career? 8:50 p.m. Eastern tonight on TBS.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/02/briefing/torrey-peters-oscars-will-smith-weekend.html Inspirations by Torrey Peters – The New York Times