Jonathan says his goal is to write books that can stand up to our "noisy" culture—that will "suck you away from all the distractions that we're bombarded with," he says. In order to do this, Jonathan says he has to isolate himself from those distractions as well. He says he does this by working in a dark, quiet office with no Internet and no telephone.
"And there I try to think about the things that make me most uncomfortable...and the things I most don't want to think about," he says. "I do that for years and make myself miserable, but also start to figure out what the real deep conflicts of myself are. And I have this theory that if I can figure out what's going on in myself and pay careful enough attention, it starts to maybe mirror what's going on in culture."
Oprah says she's impressed by the way Jonathan is able to understand the nuances of our culture—something he attributes to turning down the noise around him.
"I think we have about 100 times more noise than we need," Jonathan says. "If you get rid of 99 percent of it—so instead of dealing with a million things coming at you, you're only dealing with a thousand—you can actually pay attention to those thousand things. You can see them one at a time. And then what the novelist does is order a couple thousand things like that into some meaningful narrative."