Perry knows Mansbridge makes everything sound better

Bookmarks spotlights the personalities and published books of faculty, staff and alumni.

Today, Daniel Perry, BA ’06 (English and French), author of the short story collections Nobody Looks That Young Here and Hamburger, answers 12 questions on his ‘bookishness’ and writing.

Perry’s work has been short-listed for the Carter V. Cooper Prize, and has appeared in more than 30 publications in Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic. He lives in Toronto. Find him on Twitter @danielperrysays.

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What book do we find you reading tonight?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

How you decide what to read? Reviews, word of mouth, maybe occasionally judge a book by its cover?

All of the above.

Name one book you wish you had written. And why.

The Joy of Cooking. I would either learn to make much better meals or leave the world with a hilarious, so-bad-it’s-good, dumpster fire of a cookbook.

Name one book you could never finish. And why.

I almost always finish books, even when I don’t like them. I abandoned Howard’s End about three years ago, even if it does contain one of the more inspiring passages I’ve read (about how sad the man prepared for the worst must be when the worst never comes). I quit because I had finally found a concrete example of a “real-estate novelist” from the Billy Joel song – and I didn’t like it. There’s still a bookmark in my copy where I left off, though, so I’ll probably get back to it.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

One of the odder books I own is The Human Machine by Arnold Bennett – a rather obscure and kind of ridiculous treatise written in 1908, about how people can function more like machines. I bought it for a buck or two at the Huron University College library withdrawn book sale when I was an undergrad – and I actually applied it to course work, too, in a Comparative Literature assignment about Futurism.

Any genres you avoid? And why.

I have a lot of respect for speculative fiction, fantasy and science-fiction, but I have a hard time reading them. It might be weird for a fiction writer to say, but I’m very much a realist and I struggle to suspend my disbelief. I’m about to read the third Harry Potter book, though, so maybe I’m working my way up to it.

If you could require every university president to read one book, what would it be? And why.

Dark Money by Jane Mayer, primarily for the chapter about ‘beachheads.’

What sort of objects are must-haves in your writing environment?

Does coffee count as an object?

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Henry Miller, Albert Camus and Roxane Gay. Those first two have it coming.

How do you explain what your latest book is about to them?

To them I’d say, “Nobody Looks That Young Here is about growing up never thinking you have a chance but scrapping for it nonetheless.” It’s largely a book about adolescence – whenever in life adolescence may occur or however long it may last.

What is the best line you have ever written?

“I don’t know.”

Who would you want to write your life story?

Me. But Peter Mansbridge could read it aloud anytime.

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Nobody Looks That Young Here by Daniel Perry (Guernica Editions, $20) is available through The Book Store at Western, Indigo, Amazon or your favourite independent bookstore.