M.A.: What is the state of the novel?

B.: That’s like asking me the state of the sun. I could tell you if I was an astronomer, but I am not an astronomer. Better to check an almanac.

M.A.: With the publication of your most recent book, Valves; and secret openings, you made headlines with your cavalier use of punctuation—

B.: That’s right.

M.A.: Tell us about that.

B.: It was a very bad time in my life. I went to India. I was horrified. “These people,” I thought, “are very poor.” And I am so rich, I remembered. It made me realise that even though I hadn’t won a major award in the preceding four years, I was still very much a man at the top of my game. I had all of my teeth. I started reading the Upanishads. I thought, “Damned if these people don’t know a thing or two about punctuation!” On the way home it hit me. “I’m a clever guy,” I thought. I wrote the first chapter of the book on the plane, propped up between a fat man with eczema and a woman who couldn’t stop scratching her leg.

M.A.: That explains page twenty-six.

B.: (laughs) Well, this is fiction, remember. And nothing is at all based on reality. But yes.

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