Mckenzie-Q+A-iconIn January 2016 we publish The Portable Veblen, a riotously funny and deeply insightful adventure through capitalism, the medical industry, family, love, war and wedding-planning. The book’s author Elizabeth McKenzie is an electrically entertaining new voice. Today we sat down and asked her a few probing questions…

What are you reading at the moment?

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

What are you listening to?
The Dead Sailor Girls, Neil Finn

What are you watching on TV?
The Americans

Favourite word(s)?
‘Homunculus’ + ‘pseudo’.

Favourite song?
‘And Your Bird Can Sing’

Your hero – literary or otherwise?
Roger Federer

The book you wish you’d written/The book that everyone should read:
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

What is your writing ritual?
Lots of coffee, straight backed wooden chair, back to the window, children at school…

What is the best advice you ever received?
Look for what’s already here.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Fewer heartless jerks…

Think of something beautiful – could we ask you to describe what you see?
Hanami, the cherry blossom viewing festivals in Japan.

What’s the most memorable sentence you’ve ever read?
One is from the Steegmuller translation of Madame Bovary: “Whereas the truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
There have been serious secret yearnings for careers in private investigation, airline pilotry, and donkey ranching.

Who would play your main character in a film adaptation of your book:
Honeysuckle Weeks? Ellen Page?

Where best do you write? Your study, your kitchen counter, Starbucks?
A small cluttered room at the top of the stairs.


The Portable Veblen is out in trade paperback in January 2016.Elizabeth McKenzie’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She received her MA from Stanford, was an assistant fiction editor at The Atlantic, and currently teaches creative writing at Stanford’s school of continuing studies.