Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran, Iran in 1978 and raised in the Los Angeles area. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Her debut novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects (Grove/Atlantic), came out in September 2007 to much acclaim from The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle, among others.
This year’s reading list gets the theme The Year of the Guiltiest Pleasures, which I felt was much needed as I embarked on the scary roller coaster ride of debut novel launch. As usual my #1 New Year’s Resolution of the past 15 years – read (and love) George Eliot’s undoubtedly-masterpiecical Middlemarch – didn’t happen, so I turned to a book I really should have read when I was an undergrad at that bastion of preposterously-privileged art-snobbery, Sarah Lawrence College. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History had been recommended to me for years, but I always had the wrong idea about it – I thought it was like The Odyssey for a particularly precocious YA set. Boy, was I wrong – Tartt is a brilliant writer and she writes one of the most engaging novels about early adulthood that I have ever read. The book centers around a secret society/humanities clique at a rather Sarah Lawrence-ish small private college (I think it was based on Bennington) and chronicles their rather deadly fall. I’m sure it’s no Middlemarch, but I must say I could not put it down and was so depressed when it was over.
Also in embracing my Eliot avoidance, I read two memoirs (a genre I usually hate) by two controversial artists I usually love: 50 Cent’s From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens and Tracey Emin’s Strangeland. The latter is a really raw, almost unreadable look at a very tormented British visual artist’s sexual history and the former is the coming-of-age tale of a true NYC “G” who went from living like a kiddie-range clay pigeon (he was shot nine times!) to a huge artist who now sells over 20 million records worldwide and has a Vitamin Water named after him. Even if you hate hip hop, how could you not be interested in a story of a kid who loses his drug-dealer mom at age 8 and then takes on her vocation before he’s in junior high? I admire 50. One day I will write the best novel before a Post-It bearing the bold Sharpied mantra: “get rich or die tryin.”