Interview in The New Yorker’s Book Bench

January 17, 2012
Posted by Jon Michaud

O’Nan, the author of a dozen novels and co-author, with Stephen King, of a book about the 2004 Boston Red Sox, kindly agreed to answer questions from his home in Pittsburgh.

“The Odds” is set almost entirely at Niagara Falls. Aside from the Falls’ reputation as a honeymoon destination, what drew you to this setting?

I wanted Art and Marion to work out their private feelings in a public space, and one most people know. Niagara Falls is a fantasyland, both natural and artificial, beautiful and ugly, American and Canadian. We associate it with corny, old-time romance but also with risk and danger, so it seemed like a perfect stage for a pair of reluctant daredevils.

[read the full interview]

Four Guys, One Book

1. A review of Emily, Alone by Three Guys One Book:

JE: It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Stewart O’Nan. His winning combination of pathos, intelligence, curiosity and heroic range, make the dude a national treasure. Like Steinbeck (and Dickens and Twain), O’Nan writes about “the little people.” He’s a bard for the blue collar, reporting on the quiet and sometimes desperate lives of decent folks who may not be making headlines with their heroism, but in whom we recognize ourselves with a clarity that is all too rare in modern literature.


2. An in-depth conversation with Edward Champion (Bat Segundo Show):

I had interviewed Stewart O’Nan before in 2007 for The Bat Segundo Show. And after reading Emily, Alone, I had hoped to set up a second interview. Unfortunately, O’Nan’s hectic schedule of teaching and long driving to author events made things a bit difficult. And when I received an unexpected jury duty summons in the mail, I prepared for the distinct possibility that a few weeks of my life would be sacrificed to the courtroom.

We started volleying by email. And the two of us learned that we both had quite a lot to say about American fiction. Our conversation touched upon the influence of Richard Yates, what a writer can learn from John Gardner, avoiding parody and creating dimensional characters, and how one can protest marketplace realities while appealing to the reader. My many thanks to Stewart for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my somewhat verbose concatenations.