John Freeman

John FreemanJohn Freeman is an award-winning writer, book critic, and poet who has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007, he won the James Patterson PageTurner Award.

Freeman is editor of the anthologies Freeman’s: Family: The Best New Writing on Family (Grove Press, 2016), Freeman’s: Arrival: The Best New Writing on Arrival (Grove Press, 2015), and Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today's New York (Penguin, 2015). He is also the author of How to Read a Novelist (FSG, 2013). Maps, a collection of poems, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.

He is the former editor-in-chief of Granta and lives in New York City. (Photo credit: Deborah Treisman)

from How to Read a Novelist

Jeffrey Eugenides has a funny idea about how to be a rebel. On a recent knuckle-skin-splittingly cold Monday in Princeton it involves playing me some jazz on a school night. Dressed in slippers and a turtleneck sweater, the hawk-eyed, fifty-two-year-old Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist has tiptoed up- and downstairs to make sure his daughter is getting ready for bed. Now he is flipping through a stack of vinyl in search of something by Dexter Gordon. He racks the record and the horn comes out soft and warming, like the thick-cut glass tumbler of bourbon Eugenides has just handed me.

Thirty years ago, when he was a college student at Brown University, Eugenides’s idea of rebellion was a bit more ascetic. It was the early eighties, and while his fellow classmates were smoking cigarettes and learning how to deconstruct books, or love—any kind of intimately felt idea, really, except the idea that ideas were bogus—Eugenides did something radical. He got religion. “I could have been a punk and had a Mohawk and that would have been normal. But to actually go to a Quaker meeting or Catholic Mass to see what it’s like, was a very strange and rebellious thing to do.”

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