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The author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason went to college at 14 and started his Ph.D. while still a teenager. During grad school he spent half his time studying artificial intelligence and half his time reading. After graduating, he worked for Amazon.com for awhile; he would like to take this opportunity to specifically deny that he made subtle changes to Amazon's recommendation system to favor his own books. Of course, if he *had* rigged their system, the foregoing is exactly what he would say.
Now he works for a Silicon Valley start-up and is writing two new books.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what's the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
It’s a difficult book to synopsize, but this quotation from Ben
Ehrenreich's review in the LA Times does pretty well:
"Mason un-grounds the Odyssey, often gorgeously, turning Homer's twisting tale into a sermon on indeterminacy. He allows this grand myth of homecoming no beginning or end, just banks of fog, endless mirrors, Borgesian labyrinths."
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers' lives for the better?
Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians"
. A formal music of great power and purity.
Steve Aylett's Bigot Hall
. Unclassifiable and brilliant; as though Borges had written about Monty Python moving into Castle Gormenghast.
Anthony Smith's Blind White Fish in Persia
. Youth, a road trip through post World War II Europe, ancient irrigation systems and micro-evolution!
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn't look at you screwy)?
The thing along these lines I would most like to read is a sequel to Cintra Wilson's A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations
. She disparages first the idea of celebrity, then celebrities in particular. Courtney Love, for example, is a "vain sociopath who venally choked enough money out of the world to transform herself into a 'pretty lady'".
That said, it must be admitted that Courtney Love is rather magnificent in her venality. It would have been a violation of her essential nature (defiance, emptiness, white-knuckle ambition) if upon obtaining wealth and fame she had, say, devoted herself to making family planning available to third world women instead of getting a whacking great lot of plastic surgery, doing jail time and sleazing around Hollywood with vacant-eyed models.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Not really; in a parallel life I'm a computer scientist, so, except for the first year or two of grad school, I have had few opportunities to live in a garret and waste picturesquely away from tuberculosis. I worry that my lack of exposure to respiratory ailments has cut into my literary productivity.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
My usual reaction when approached by an enthusiastic reader could be described as "fish-eyed blankness". Writing the book entailed sitting in a room alone for six years or so; this has not really prepared me to talk about it with other human beings. So perhaps the ideal interaction is one in which I have been drinking.
Have you ever written anything that you'd like to take back?
Every last word I've published under my non-literary pseudonym "Dan Brown".