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Meet the WritersImage of Hilary Liftin
Hilary Liftin
Good to Know
In our interview, Liftin shared a few fun facts:

"I started keeping a journal in the third grade, writing doggerel. I always wrote in one of those clothbound books you get at bookstores, almost every day throughout high school and college. I credit journal keeping with my memory of my youth, which is very complete. Also, I think because the journals were private and never judged, I never have any kind of writer's block. I can always write something, even if it's terrible."

"My first job was working for the legendary publisher Sam Lawrence, who first published Richard Yates, Kurt Vonnegut, Jayne Anne Phillips, Tim O'Brien, Tillie Olsen, Susan Minot, and many other amazing writers. On my third day of work, Sam told me, ‘Publishing used to be fun, but you've ruined it for me.' "

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In the summer of 2004, we asked authors featured in Meet the Writers to give us a list of their all-time favorite summer reads, and tell us what makes them just right for the season. Here's what Hilary Liftin had to say:

  • In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick -- A perfect survival-at-sea adventure best enjoyed under the safe shadow of a beach umbrella. When a Nantucket whaler is sunk by the real-life inspiration for Moby-Dick, its sailors embark on a desperate voyage in an open boat.

  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand -- My summer concentration level is minimal, but Hillenbrand's anecdotal brilliance can engage anyone in this story of horse-racing and a true American underdog.

  • Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus -- Dubus is a master of the short story. This collection has a spiritual grace that is too hard to find in contemporary literature.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco -- A rich man's DaVinci Code. An epic murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian abbey rich with historical detail and conspiratorial intrigue.

  • American Woman by Susan Choi -- A fictionalization of the Patty Hearst kidnapping that imagines events not from Hearst's perspective but from that of one of her kidnappers. A deep, meticulous examination of race, radicalism, and humanity.

  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers -- You think you have it bad. This 12-year-old protagonist is awkward, bored, and alienated as she fantasizes about how her life will change when her brother gets married. If you hated it in school, it's definitely worth another shot.

  • The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank -- Chick lit is all the rage, and everyone knows that nothing's better for summer reading than a heartfelt, funny story of mating and dating. Girls' Guide is the book that (alongside Bridget Jones' Diary) launched the trend and is a more clever, original read.

  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt -- A kids' book for any grownup. It starts in the endless heat of August when a bored young girl discovers that the fountain of youth is in her own backyard. A moving exploration of the cycle of life.

  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres -- A romance set on a Greek island. Long enough to last through a three-day weekend, at least. Don't let the first 50 pages, or the movie, put you off if you want to lose yourself in a story of wartime love.

  • Easter Parade by Richard Yates -- Yates has never gotten the attention he deserves. Easter Parade is one of his best books, a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of two sisters' lives. Tragic, but flawless.


    In the summer of 2003, Hilary Liftin took some time out to talk to us about her favorite books, authors, and interests:

    What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
    In general, children's books influenced me more than books I've read as adult, because when I was a child there was so much further to go! I was utterly obsessed with A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett for much of my girlhood. Not only did it teach me the importance of imagination, but it was the first book where I really took interest in the author and had respect and gratitude for what she had done, and for the book as an object. I went so far as to laminate my paperback with Scotch tape, ostensibly to preserve it for my children.

    What are your ten favorite books -- and what makes them special to you?

  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates -- A timeless, un-ironic book about discontent in the suburbs. It reminds me that my favorite writing is simple, realistic, and somehow gets to what is so heartbreaking and glorious about everyday life.

  • Don't Go Europe by Chris Harris -- I can't say the book changed me, but the fellow who wrote it (my husband) did.

  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt -- I first read this book when I was maybe seven and have been relatively at peace with the concept of death ever since. Babbitt's beautifully crafted tale of a young rich girl trapped in her yard for a hot, boring summer is flawless.

  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing -- I was already hooked on stories of Antarctic exploration when this book put me over the edge. A page-turner about Shackleton's epic survival story.

  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf -- The second part of the novel, "Time Passes," changed me profoundly, although I can't say exactly how.


  • Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

    Favorite films?
    It's hard to say, but I loved Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson. I love the way the Aimee Mann soundtrack is completely integrated into the movie and how it portrays everyday (and not-so-everyday) lives weaving together through chance and design.

    Favorite music?
    I'm currently obsessed with the Everclear album Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1. It makes me want to keep driving -- words I never thought I'd utter.

    If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
    Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I just started this account of a childhood in racist white southern Africa and can already tell that I wish I had a book group with whom to discuss it.

    What are your favorite books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
    I like to give Poems of New York, edited by Elizabeth Schmidt. I like to get anything that a friend has read and loves.

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  • About the Writer
    *Hilary Liftin Home
    * Good to Know
    * Interview
    *Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean, 1999
    *Candy and Me: A Girl's Tale of Life, Love, and Sugar, 2003
    Photo by Chris Harris