John Leland

Location New York
Occupation Reporter
Website http://

About Me

I'm a newspaper reporter in New York, trying to improve my fiction writing. Also the author of two nonfiction books, "Hip: The History" and "Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of 'On the Road' (They're Not What You Think." And a one-time student of Fictionaut's own Marcy Dermansky.

Why do you write?

I write in order to put off doing something productive and beneficial to others, like taking cooking classes. Also because I want to hear what stories my characters have to tell me.

At some point I got the idea that I wanted to play with primitive American forms -- tall tales, comics, the blues, ad jingles, minstrel shows, yankee peddler stories, etc -- and treat them as if they were greek myths or scriptures, the basis for modern tales. So far this idea works better at parties than in practice. Not that it works that well at parties, either.

Any favorite authors? Books?

Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" totally pissed me off that I didn't write it. No one can out record-nerd me. Then when I started trying to write fiction, I realized that I couldn't have written it after all.

My favorite books include Ann Douglas's "Terrible Honesty," George W.S. Trow's "Within the Context of No Context," Lewis Hyde's "Trickster Makes This World," Ann Fadiman's "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," William Finnegan's "Cold New World," Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point." If anyone asks me what to read, I say either Sam Lipsyte's "Homeland" or Gary Shteyngart's "The Russian Debutante's Handbook," depending on how filthy I think his or her mind is.

John Leland's Wall

Jessica West – Sep 23, 2009

like yr books

Morgan Harlow – Mar 25, 2009

I finally got around to reading Pieces of Lou part 1! Better late than never.

Amanda Nazario – Oct 22, 2008

Thanks for that nice comment on my story. I'm noticing that a lot of people who live in NYC like that piece, heh. Looking forward to seeing your fiction.

David Ulin – Oct 03, 2008

Hey John --

How's it going? I keep thinking my Jack fixation is over and then something new comes out, like Wake Up or And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Beginning to accept that it's a lifelong affliction ...

Morgan Harlow – Sep 29, 2008

When I was a student at Wisconsin, we'd have to dodge in and out of buildings on our way across campus so as not to freeze!

Morgan Harlow – Sep 29, 2008

I like your reporting in the nytimes. Welcome!

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