It’s become exaggerated over the years, this story about how [Tinkers] was rejected by every publisher in the universe. The reality is that I met with a copious but common amount of rejection. I received some rejection letters that said nobody wants to read quiet, metaphysical novels. One of them actually said nobody wants to read a novel written from more than one point of view. I wrote a metaphysical, contemplative, more-than-one-point-of-view novel.
Had the Pulitzer not happened, its worldly career would have still exceeded my wildest expectations. The day it came out, it was briefly noted in The New Yorker. I think pretty much every American newspaper reviewed it more or less favorably. Then, in the middle of April , we won the Pulitzer. That was like the world turning inside out, like those cartoons where your eyes jump out of your head and your brain comes flying out.
I started Enon in March 2009, a few months after Tinkers came out. I got this articulated silhouette of an exaggerated hill studded with headstones. At the top of the hill was a guy sort of creeping along. I just knew that was Charlie Crosby [grandson of the protagonist of Tinkers] and at the bottom of that hill his daughter is buried.
What I’ve realized is that I could not be less interested in autobiography. I could not be less interested in myself, but I could not be more interested in the fact that I am a self. So the Enon cemetery is the cemetery in Wenham, where I grew up. I just try to write things that are beautiful, which is not to say things that are pretty. Basically, what I want to do with my reader is break your heart and blow your mind. As a writer, I want to reproduce the things I most love when I read.
— As told to Rachel Deahl
Interview has been edited and condensed.
READ AND GREET Enon will be released September 10, with a talk that day at Cambridge’s Harvard Coop and other events on the following days in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Go to randomhouse.com for details.