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The L: What are you reading right now?
EB: I'm alternating between Graham Robb's biography of Balzac, and rereading The Brothers Karamazov.
The L: You mention a conversation you had with your mother concerning Anna Karenina. What influence did your parents have on your literary preferences and development?
EB: My father taught me how to read when I was really small. It's kind of a family joke: he would tell everyone I was so smart that I taught myself how to read at age three, but in fact everyone, including me, remembers that he spent hours teaching me himself, with a system he had worked out using index cards and the Frog and Toad books.
Both my parents are doctors, and, although they would sometimes mention how great it would be if I became a doctor, they always encouraged me with my writing. They're both avid readers and there were always a lot of books at home.
The L: In your book you tell the story of meeting a man in Turkey who couldn't believe you wouldn't use your educational opportunity in America to tell "the truth about Turkey, not the nonsense propagated by Europeans!" Is this a common burden on Turkish writers, this expectation that you as a writer are responsible for proudly representing Turkish culture? Do you feel any of that pressure or, seeing as you were born here in New York and raised in New Jersey, are you removed from it?
EB: Yes, I think some Turkish writers feel the East-West tension very strongly. Orhan Pamuk writes a lot about it (and he is also an admirer of the Russians). I don't feel it very strongly myself, since I was born and grew up here. Also, although my parents came to the United States only after finishing medical school, they both went to American high schools in Turkey, so their English is really fluent, which I think makes a big difference for how assimilated you feel growing up in the United States.
The L: How did you end up connecting with n+1?
EB: Keith Gessen and I were at Harvard at the same time, and we both wrote for the literary magazine. We never met as students, but he contacted me in 2004—he remembered a piece I had published in the Advocate, about my experiences interning for a literary magazine in Moscow during my junior semester abroad. Keith asked if I could write something similar for n+1. I wrote "Babel in California," which was my first non-student publication.
The L: Do you still have the desire to write a novel?
EB: Yes, I would still like to give it a shot.