Question: What inspired your new stories, which take place in the U.S.A., Japan, Switzerland and, in particular, with The Curator, in New Yorks highly competitive, colorful, sometimes wacky art world, which you have observed as an arts journalist and critic for many years?

Answer: I had been collecting observations and impressions — sometimes just the memory of a certain face or gesture, or of the way someone moved as he or she crossed the street, or of a fragment of overheard conversation — and, little by little, they started coming together, developing into stories that almost seemed to write themselves

Q.: Are they autobiographical?

A.: Of course, some of the details of these stories are based on real people, places or events I’ve actually known or witnessed myself, and it’s exciting to see them come to life in fictional form on the page.

Q.:  From the nerdy young illustrator in No Smoking” and the new friends he meets in Claire’s garden to the Japanese children in Moon”  and Apple,” or the elderly flower-seller in Tokyo in Shrine,” or the jovial Mexican housekeeper in The Curator” — several of your characters seem to be quite sensitive about the world around them.

A.: As the creator of all of these characters, I’ve literally given them life and their respective voices. They’re like my children! I feel that I really know them. Yes, I think they are sensitive individuals. More precisely, I think they are willing to be vulnerable and to go out into the world, allowing their vulnerability to show, even if they are not aware that they are doing so.

Q.: Theyre believable characters?

A.: They’re alive!


Q.: There is humor, tenderness and real-world complexity in these stories — and fantasy, too.

A.:  The 17th-century Spanish poet and playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca did say, Life is a dream.” I’m interested in how the imaginary — and what is thought of as unimaginable — and the co-called real come together in everyday life. In my stories, the real and the supposedly imaginary flow together and blend together seamlessly. As Buddhism teaches, and as generations of philosophers have learned, so-called reality or the perceived world is constantly in flux. It is always shifting and hard to define or perhaps even hard to grasp firmly from one person to the next.

Q.: You grew up in Switzerland, and one of your stories takes place in a Swiss city, near a lake. You’ve lived and worked in different parts of the world, and you speak several languages and use them in your life and work. How has such an international background affected your outlook?

A.: I think my background experiences have helped give me a deep sense of appreciation for how people communicate both within their own cultures and across cultures. I’m fascinated by how people give tangible, visible, audible form to their thoughts and feelings, often in very nuanced ways. Maybe that is why I have spent much of my professional life looking at and writing about art, because art is such an enduring, powerful, multifaceted means of communication. In these stories, sometimes there is an air of longing. There are also many moments of discovery, too. I hope readers will enjoy the way these stories unfold and that they may be moved by the circumstances in which their characters learn in unexpected ways about their — and our — intriguing places and powers in this world.