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It Books

IT underdog ANN PATCHETT

AGE 38 WHY HER? Her fourth novel, Bel Canto, inspired by the 1996 siege of the Japanese embassy in Peru, beat out higher-wattage reads like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections for the PEN/Faulkner prize. She took home 15 grand and a plaque that boasts the names of past winners such as Philip Roth and Don DeLillo. BEST ADVICE ”When I was in college, Russell Banks told me that I had to decide whether I wanted to write good fiction or good TV.” WORST ADVICE ”My father thought I should get a degree in dental hygiene so I’d have something to fall back on.” MOVIE THAT CHANGED HER LIFE The Poseidon Adventure. ”When I saw it, I understood the concept of plot for the first time.” CREATIVE CRUTCH ”I gave up cigarettes and then I gave up computer solitaire. Now when I want to stall, I wake the dog up and make her play with me.” NEXT ”I’d like to get off the book tour, rip the phone out of the wall, and go back to writing.”

IT master IAN MCEWAN

AGE 54 WHY HIM? Author most recently of the unanimously huzzah-ed, Booker-shortlisted novel Atonement, McEwan has reached a pinnacle among new-century novelists for his combination of literary sleight of hand and deeply felt emotionalism. CAREER HIGH ”In 1970, at the age of 22, when I saw my name on the front of [literary magazine] The New American Review, alongside Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, and Gunter Grass.” CAREER LOW ”In 1979, when the BBC banned a film based on my short story ‘Solid Geometry.’ It has finally been filmed for British television, with Ewan McGregor in the lead.” DREAM COLLABORATOR ”I wouldn’t turn down the chance to write a libretto for Mozart.” INFLUENCE ”I’ve always thought Ry Cooder was an exemplary mix of technical genius and human warmth.” HEROES ”The American biologist and writer E.O. Wilson. Keith Richards for his wedding-cake-in-the-rain face.” CLOSEST BRUSH WITH CAREER IMMOLATION ”A sheaf of poems I submitted for publication in 1975. Fortunately, they were mislaid by the editor.” BEST ADVICE ”Marry Annalena [McAfee].” WORST ADVICE ”Don’t publish your short stories until you’ve published your first novel.” CREATIVE CRUTCH ”Caffeine, chocolate biscuits, an awareness of mortality.” IF HE WEREN’T WRITING, HE’D BE… ”A replacement bass guitarist in a Grateful Dead tribute band.” NEXT Moving (Oxford to London) and a new novel.

IT editor EAMON DOLAN

AGE 38 WHY HIM? He’s edited everyone from Tony Hillerman to Timothy Leary, with a little late Charles Bukowski thrown in for luck. He tempted America with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation while hooking them on Scrabble with Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak. As Houghton Mifflin’s executive editor, Dolan is a champion of small books that ”surprise me when they do well.” BOOK THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE Guinness Book of Records, 1971 edition. ”I was 7, and until then television was my medium of choice. There was an entry about the world’s fattest man, who weighed like 1,069 pounds and when he died they had to bury him in a piano case. That fact – which encapsulated the incredible difficulty of this man’s entire life – could not come from anywhere but a book.” HERO Larry Ashmead, Dolan’s mentor at HarperCollins. ”His Rolodex had 2,000 names on it, and he slept four hours a night.” IF HE WEREN’T EDITING, HE’D BE… ”The IT Crazed Loner at the public library.” LEONARDO DiCAPRIO’S SEAL OF APPROVAL The actor optioned Simon Silber: Works for Solo Piano – Christopher Miller’s novel written in the form of CD liner notes – which Dolan published last month. NEXT A fly-on-the-wall treatment of West Point by Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky, due next year.