James Siegel is an American thriller novelist and writes under the name S K Barnett. We were pleased to have him join us at our book club “Books & Wine” when we chose his book “Safe: The Novel” as our book club pick. He holds a B.A. from the York College University of New York, and lives in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, NY. Siegel worked for many years as an advertising executive in New York City and continues to work in politics today. He was a great addition to our book club discussion!
On my nightstand: Girl A by Abigail Dean. A beautifully written novel about surviving a monstrous childhood and the dynamics among the surviving siblings.
Favorite book when I was a child: Every Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes.
My top five authors: John Fowles. John Le Carre. Philip Roth. Graham Greene. Joyce Carol Oates. (five isn’t enough because I’m leaving out John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, E.L Doctorow, Joan Didion, Nabokov and so many others)
Books I’ve faked reading: War and Peace. Crime and Punishment.
Book I’m an evangelist for: Hmmm….how about The White Hotel. Read it decades ago and it still haunts me.
Book I bought for the cover: The Collector by John Fowles. As a 14 year old, a naked woman pictured from behind with spread butterfly wings definitely caught my attention, if for all the wrong reasons.
Book I hid from my parents: Candy by Terry Southern. It was something of a scandal when it was published, though in retrospect it wasn’t very good.
Book that changed my life: Not sure I can term any book as life-changing, but I do remember the sheer wonder of reading the French Lieutenant’s Woman and having the author (Mr. Fowles again) break the fourth wall at the most dramatic moment of the narrative and let us know he can go several ways with his protagonist at this point. It was annoyingly intrusive and yet powerfully instructive–most of all, it reminded the reader–me–of the magical hocus-pocus that comprises immersive fiction.
Favorite line from a book: I have several, and any lover of beautiful writing will immediately recognize two of them since for my money they are the two most beautiful passages in the English language–though admittedly they’re paragraphs more than lines. My last choice is mercifully brief but has stuck with me for forty years regardless–courtesy of Mr. Faulkner.
“..snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and further, westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the organic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…and one fine morning..
so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“Dilsey. They endured.”
Five books I’ll never part with: Lolita. The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. End of the Affair. To Kill a Mockingbird.
Book I most want to read again for the first time: I just did that with Lolita–after not having read it for a good forty years. And I fell in love all over again. For an author whose first language wasn’t English, Nabokov was one of its most artful and gorgeous practitioners