Some Oscar® winners say they keep their statues in odd places, like the bathroom or in a closet. If you don't mind us asking, where do you keep your Pulitzer?
The Pulitzer isn't a physical object. You can't hold it in your hand. You get some money ($7,500 in my day), and you get a little Tiffany's paperweight with your name on it and the image of Joseph Pulitzer suspended in the crystal. When people see my "Pulitzer" (I keep it in my sock drawer), they are pretty amazed at its meagerness. But it's important to realize that the paperweight isn't my Pulitzer. The Pulitzer Prize is an idea; it's a vote of confidence. Like literature, it exists purely in the mind.
Who have been your greatest influences in writing?
The ancient Latin poets, obviously, Vergil and Catullus. The great Russians, Tolstoy and Nabokov. And the great American Jews, Bellow and Roth. Plus Henry James, J.D. Salinger, García Márquez, lots of others.
A Conversation with Jeffrey Eugenides continues...