John Williams was born in Oceanside, New York, in 1974. After 12 years in Dallas, Texas, he moved to Brooklyn in 2000, and has remained there happily since (aside from a few months after 9/11 when he seriously considered relocating to a place with more cattle than people). John has a reputation for daydreaming about other places to live without ever really travelling. It's complicated. He's an editor at Harper Perennial, and blogs at A Special Way of Being Afraid.
Why do you blog? > It helps preserve whatever natural shred of writing discipline I possess. Plus: I only like writing with an audience in mind, no matter how small (always hated keeping a diary whenever I briefly tried), and several friend-readers of mine provide that.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Seeing links to my blog from you and Andrew Sullivan. My having reached out to both of you made it no less of a thrill.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > When I was 16, like many stubborn, opinionated boys, it was Ayn Rand. A bit later, it was the young Woody Allen (still is). And since then, lots of people in bits and pieces – Bertrand Russell, Oscar Wilde, William Trevor, etc.
What are you reading at the moment? > For work: several manuscripts simultaneously. For personal pleasure: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and The Evolution-Creation Struggle by Michael Ruse.
Who are your cultural heroes? > The writing staff of The Simpsons, seasons 1 through 8.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Atonement by Ian McEwan.
What is your favourite movie? > Annie Hall – with You Can Count on Me and This is Spinal Tap close behind to complete the trifecta.
What is your favourite song? > 'Nightswimming' by REM.
Who is your favourite composer? > Bach.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett - because in addition to agreeing with its vigorous, brilliant defence of Darwinism, I also became convinced that those who use it to explain every last phenomenon (including the history of cultural memes, etc.) are as crazed and deluded in their way as religious fanatics.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > From Trail Fever by Michael Lewis: 'Thus people who take their power for granted share something with people who have no power: in neither is there any strong impulse to activism. The rich, like the poor, lead lives filled with foregone conclusions.'
What would you do with the UN? > Well, I've always wanted to start a very large book store.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The continued threat of religious lunacy (and more general lunacy), but also the escalation of petty conflicts among people who share the same bedrock ideals.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > No, we haven't passed it; it will be October 23, 2036.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I'm not a radically political person, in either direction, and am not generally drawn to those who are, so this likely won't be an issue.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > 1) A sense of humour. 2) Loyalty, not to causes, but to people - and within reason.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Pretentiousness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Many, I imagine, as long as the stakes are small enough and there isn't a larger principle in play.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Sure. Oh, acknowledge here? No.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Only the shallow know themselves.' (Oscar Wilde)
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Pretty much everything. (Including: Not finding love, finding love, life's work, travel, death, etc.)
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Any number of smaller towns or cities – Saratoga Springs NY, for one - though my general rule of thumb is that I have to be within easy driving distance of a Major League Baseball team.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > I like to talk with friends over a drink, follow baseball, read, write, watch movies, listen to (and download) music, play the horses six or seven days a year.
What is your most treasured possession? > My music and book collections. Certain letters of the many I've kept from friends and family over the years.
What talent would you most like to have? > To sing well, and with soul (like, say, Sam Cooke).
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Movie critic for The New Yorker.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > David Letterman.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would divide my time evenly between New York and somewhere more peaceful.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Richard Russo, Laura Linney, Larry David.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]