● A CONVERSATION WITH...
What did you get from your
Jersey upbringing? The older I
get, the more clear I am about
what a New Jersey attitude is. It’s
a very down-to-earth, egalitarian place. I think that sticks with
anyone who grew up there. In the
end, you belong to the place you
grew up in.
Did Jersey influence you as a
writer? I have always considered
myself a writer who focuses on
ordinary people and who treats
everyday life as a subject worthy
of literature—and that’s a product of growing up in Jersey.
You were creator and executive
producer on HBO’s The Leftovers—based on your 2011 novel.
Critics gushed over the recent
finale. How did that feel? Deeply
gratifying. There were huge
expectations on the show.
Given your success with books
and the movie adaptations of
your novels Election and Little
Children, why take a chance
on episodic TV? I remember
watching The Sopranos and
feeling tremendously excited as
a novelist. I remember thinking
this was a new form of storytelling. A story could go on for years
and years, our sense of character
could deepen. Even in a novel you
don’t get that kind of connection.
I kept thinking, I want to do this.
I could just feel something really
amazing was happening.
So, why write another novel?
Fiction is my first love. There’s a
purity you find in it you don’t find
in TV and film. Those are col-
laborative mediums. There is just
something special about writing
a book. Every word is mine, every
choice is mine, and the truth is
my other careers have been built
on the novels.
You are developing Mrs. Fletcher
for HBO. What fascinated you
about this material? The starting point was the sense that the
culture had been changed so
profoundly by smart phones, the
Internet, social media. One thing
that’s changed is sex and dating.
I wanted to take a middle-aged
person and plunge them into this
world. If there was one subject I
really wanted to address it was
the omnipresence of pornography and how it a;ects everybody.
Even people who don’t realize
they are being a;ected by it.
Your 2000 novel Joe College is
about a humble Jersey kid’s challenging first year at Yale—your
alma mater. How autobiographical is it? It really was quite a
culture shock. I had grown up
in Garwood and it was a world
unto itself. I hadn’t traveled,
hadn’t met people too di;erent
from the people I’d gone to high
school with. The world opened
up in a startling and sometimes
intimidating way. I had to figure
out how to navigate that. But I
was also determined that I was
not going to be changed by it.
Then you realize that experience
is going to transform you whether
you want it to or not.
When you visit your mom in
Garwood, what strikes you about
the area? First, let me say that
my mom and I always make a religious pilgrimage to the Galloping Hill Inn to get a hot dog. It’s
fascinating to see the gentrification of Garwood, Cranford and
Westfield. There’s this proliferation of gourmet groceries and
food culture from Brooklyn.
As a teenager, you had a summer job collecting trash in your
hometown. What do you remember from that? I never threw
up. On that job, that was not a
GRE W UP IN
Mrs. Fletcher (