Coming to the Festival of Books: Chris Adrian
When the New Yorker selected its 20 under 40 last year -- a prestigious list of writers to watch -- Chris Adrian was the eldest of the bunch. Not that he's a slacker -- he's a pediatric fellow in hematology/oncology at UC San Francisco and also found time to get a master's of fine arts at the Iowa Writers Workshop. His fourth book, "The Great Night," officially hit shelves Tuesday.
Adrian will be at the Festival of Books on Saturday on the panel "The Experimental Epic" with National Book Award nominee Karen Tei Yamashita and Adam Levin, author of the massive McSweeney's novel "The Instructions." Adrian took time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions by email.
Jacket Copy: Since your new novel "The Great Night" is a retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," you must have read it before. When did you first read the play, and did it hook you right away?
Chris Adrian: Oddly enough I don't actually remember when I first read the play. I think it was probably when I was very young, because when I was little I used to like to be seen reading Shakespeare plays so people would think I was smart, and I have very clear grade-school memories of some of the more gruesome scenes from the tragedies, which were the only parts I really paid any attention to. I think I must have read it, or at least passed my eyes over it, in grade school, but lacking any beheadings or behandings or stab-orgies it probably failed to make much of an impression. I read it again in high school and still thought it was a little boring, then encountered it one more time in college and finally got hooked, though mostly on account of the Pyramus and Thisbe play, which I liked better than anything around it.
JC: Do you know San Francisco's Buena Vista Park well -- and is it a magical place to you?
CA: I used to pass through Buena Vista Park every day on the way back and forth from work, and so got to see it at dawn and dusk, when it it always seems otherworldly, if not magical. Seen from certain angles, bathed in moonlight and surrounded by fog, it's hard not to imagine that something deeply unusual might be going on in there.
JC: As a doctor, how do you ever find time to write?
CA: The people in charge of me have given me a lot of time off over the years, which is part of the advantage of being in training. As I'm getting closer to being all grown up as a physician and having to go find a real job, finding time is getting to be harder, though I still feel like I have it a great deal easier than my friends who are writers who have kids. They all seem able to get more done in 20 minutes than I can in a month.
JC: Are you looking forward to anything in particular at the Festival of Books this year?
CA: R.L Stine and Patti Smith! Though I kind of wish they were in conversation with each other instead of other people.
JC: What do you hope to see or do in L.A. apart from the Festival of Books?
CA: I have a brand new cousin in L.A. whom I'm hoping to get to meet. And I have this T-shirt that says "What happens in La Brea Tar Pits Stays in La Brea Tar Pits" and I'd feel much better about wearing it if I actually visited them.
Tickets to the L.A. Times Festival of Books panels are available now from Eventbrite.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Chris Adrian. Credit: Gus Elliott