Narrative 10

As we embark on our second decade of publishing Narrative, we have a few burning questions for Dani Shapiro.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

My favorite character in fiction is Clarissa Dalloway. Each time I return to her, she deepens. As for life, my fifteen-year-old son, Jacob, because he positively churns with sweetness and aliveness and also reminds me that I’m glad I’m not fifteen. Who would want to go back to their teenaged years?

2. Your favorite line (that you or someone else wrote)?

“I saw my ex-husband on the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library. Hello, my life, I said.” —Grace Paley, from “Wants”

3. The story, novel, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

4. Best part of the day?

My dear friend Miloš Forman has said that his favorite moment is when he opens the menu at a restaurant before dinner, and all is possibility.

5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

Yoga. Followed by one perfect martini.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?

Once I discover a word I overuse, I try very hard to stop using it. In my novel Black & White, a copyeditor called days before the book was about to go to press. She had counted eleven muffleds. Horrifying! In life—wait a minute, I’m going to ask my husband and son. Okay, here we go: no, space, privacy, perspective, honey, lucky, inward, talk, dogs, online. Oh, and drive carefully.

7. What’s your current obsession?

The website Maria Popova is a brilliant curator of creativity. Every Sunday morning, when her newsletter arrives in my in-box, it feels as if I’ve been given a gift.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

The late Jerome Badanes, who was my mentor and professor at Sarah Lawrence, once cautioned me against the balm of beautiful language. “You may know how to write a beautiful sentence,” Jerry said, “but you’d better make sure it means something.”

9. What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten, and/or what do you know now you wish you knew then?

I know now not to measure my insides against others’ outsides. Oh, how I wish I had known that at age twelve—but does any child?

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

After seventeen years, he doesn’t bore me.