The Divining Wand

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The Revealing of Joshua Henkin

June 06, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Joshua Henkin (Swimming Across the Hudson) follows up on his successful New York Times Notable Book Matrimony with The World Without You available on Tuesday, June 19th.

The book is briefly described in the following sentence:

A moving, mesmerizing new novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Too sweeping and general? Please take note of these *starred* reviews:

“When conventionalists claim, ‘They don’t write novels like that anymore,’ this is the sort of novel they mean. Yet the very familiarity and durability of the setup suggests that the traditional novel remains very much alive and healthy as well, if the narrative momentum and depth of character here are proof of vitality. . . . A novel that satisfies all expectations.” 
—Kirkus (starred review)



“Like a more bittersweet version of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You or a less chilly variation on Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Henkin tenderly explores family dynamics in this novel about the ties that bind, and even lacerate . . . The author has created an empathetic cast of characters that the reader will love spending time with, even as they behave like fools and hurt one another. An intelligently written novel that works as a summer read and for any other time of the year.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)



“An American Jewish family gathers at its summer home in the Berkshires to mourn the youngest of the four children, a journalist killed while on assignment in Iraq. Henkin excels at characterization, and he outdoes himself here in a novel that might have been called Six Characters in Search of Family Happiness.”
—Commentary (Summer Reading Preview)


The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit with Josh on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 but today let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels MATRIMONY, a New York Times Notable Book, and SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book. His new novel, THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU, will be published by Pantheon in June, 2012. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

And now here’s the opportunity to get to know Josh upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Wife, daughter, write, read, friends, dinner, dog, sleep.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Never listen to mottos or maxims.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Having finished a good day of writing, dinner with wife and daughters, Dulcie, our eleven-year-old golden retriever, at my wife’s and my feet while we watch Jon Stewart, a good book waiting by my bedside.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I’m not a big fan of mice.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I kind of like where I am right now, writing at my desk, soon to go out for a run in Prospect Park.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. No one I can think of offhand.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. The home daycare person who took care of my daughters when they were toddlers. Fifteen kids demanding things from her, and she never lost her cool, was happy to be with them all.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “Actually, I am the boss of you” (to my six-year-old)

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I’ve started to take piano lessons, and I wouldn’t mind being really good at the piano. I’d kind of like to fly, too.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Is it possible to say marrying your wife and fathering you kids without sounding like an idiot and/or Oscar winner?

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Impatience

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Curiosity

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That my daughters didn’t really get to know my father before he got sick.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I’ve never really wanted to be anyone other than me, which isn’t to say that being me is so great, just that I’m very happy being who I am.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I ask a lot of questions

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Emma Bovary

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. The bible salesman in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Roger Federer. How in the world do you do it?

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Bad grammar and syntax, malapropisms. I’m not proud of it, but I’m a schoolmarm at heart.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Writing

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. humor, honesty, intelligence

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, even at almost 5 dollars a slice.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. “Radio Sweetheart,” Elvis Costello; “Choice in the Matter,” Aimee Mann; “A New England,” Billy Bragg; “Bad Reputation,” Freedy Johnston; “Couldn’t Call it Unexpected Number 4,” Elvis Costello

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. I hate ranking books. It’s like choosing among your children. But I guess Madame Bovary and Lolita would be on the list. Among more contemporary novels, I’d say Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Probably Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Just about any short story collection by Alice Munro.

Discover more about Joshua Henkin by visiting his website, following him on Twitter, liking him on Facebook, and Pre-ordering The World Without You.

2 Comments to “The Revealing of Joshua Henkin”


  1. Another great interview…. must try Di Fara pizza if I’m ever in Brooklyn. And push Revolutionary Road back to the top of my tbr list.

    Going to check out his book now!

    1
  2. I love his choice of eight words to describe his life….he sounds like a happy man, what could be better?

    2


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