Philipp Meyer is not answering his doorbell. Standing in front of his apartment building, balancing the cup of coffee I said I’d bring him, a cell phone (oddly not working), and the rest of the interview detritus, I panic. Do I have the wrong day? The wrong time? Is he gone? He had said he was leaving town soon and that there was an excellent chance I wouldn’t be able to interview him about The Son, his epic American multigenerational second novel, out this June from Ecco. I’m leaning against the counter of the bodega next door when Meyer arrives. His buzzer, he explains, is broken. He’s clean-cut, handsome, and completely calm.
The confidence of his writing replicates his confidence in person. Meyer is focused, serious, completely aware, present, but also he laughs easily and smiles often. His personal history is compelling. “I have an extremely high risk tolerance,” he tells me. This is evident from his back story; Meyer is living proof that taking risks can indeed pay off.
If luck is a factor in success, Meyer’s luck seems to have come from effort, extreme discipline, and a total belief in himself and his work. “Now that I’ve rewritten it [The Son], it’s perfect,” he says. He also describes his first book, American Rust (Spiegel & Grau, 2009), as “perfect,” but he’s humble and gracious when he clarifies this statement: “I would never write in that style again, so it was perfect in the sense that it was within the aesthetic that I was working in according to my abilities at that moment—that was the best thing I could create.”
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