“Why are you leaving?”

I’m not sure how I failed to hear about The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, a collection of author interviews edited by Daniel Alarcon—the book tour didn’t stray far from Alarcon’s home base in Oakland, for one thing. But if nothing else the book has a stellar lineup of interviewees: Haruki Murakami, Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, Edwidge Danticat, Jennifer Egan, and more. Last month McSweeney’s ran a few brief excerpts from the book, and I particularly liked Egan’s comments on the distractions of the internet:

A writer friend of mine, Lisa Fugard, once told me that she had a sign next to the door of her office that said, “Why are you leaving?” Many times she found herself walking through that door with no idea of why. Then she made herself sit down again and continue working. I try to have a mental sign that asks why I’m leaving when I find myself suddenly typing something into Google for no particular reason, as if I had nothing else to do.

Alarcon talks a little more about the book in an interview with Reuters, which also includes news that he’s finishing a second novel—a departure from his previous one, 2007’s excellent Lost City Radio: “My second book of stories in a sense had to do with politics in Latin America, but I found politics is a bit of a depressing thing to write about,” he says. “I am sort of obsessed by politics … although I am not sure how much it benefits my life so I am writing a different kind of book.”

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