David Farley

What I Read: David Farley

David FarleySince early 2010, The Atlantic Wire has run a wonderful series called the “Media Diet,” wherein prominent personalities in news, government, arts, radio, and elsewhere discuss how they handle the “torrent of information pouring down on us all.” I have found all sorts of useful nuggets in these media diet profiles, from how to organize my day to what sources to add to my news reader or Twitter list.

For some time, I’ve mulled over the idea of talking to my writing colleagues about their media diets. Today, I’m posting what I hope is the first in a long series of profiles about travel and food writers and what they read, watch, and listen to.

David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town, which will be made into a documentary later this year, is the first writer to tell me about what he reads and how he structures his writing time. As I am writing this, I learned that Farley’s April 2012 article for Afar Magazine, Vietnam’s Bowl of Secrets, has been selected for inclusion in the 2013 Best American Travel Writing anthology. Learn more about David Farley at dfarley.com.

How do you get started with your writing day?

When I wake up, I freak myself out by going over the weird dreams I’d had. How did my Dad suddenly become one of my grad school professors who then morphed into the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island and patting me on the back calling me “Little Buddy”? Does this make me Gilligan? Then I think about what I have to do that day, meaning what I have to write and/or edit. When I finally get up, I make coffee. I recently bought I coffee grinder which means I’m officially a coffee snob. I check my email. I look at the New York Times online, I check out the social media.

Ideally I start working right away. But really, I end up looking at a gazillion websites and then, two hours later, convince myself it’s time to start writing. After said convincing I find myself cleaning the bathroom or running to the store to buy ingredients to make an extravagant lunch for myself or going to the gym. Or, likely, all three of these things. Basically, I do a lot of stuff to keep me from writing. But by 4pm, knowing I’m going to be meeting friends for drinks in three hours, I start freaking out and have the most productive three hours, ever.

When I really can’t get started writing, I’ll read a writer I admire. Often this is Joan Didion. Specifically, I’ll read the first few pages of “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” from Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I also like reading Jo Ann Beard and Bill Bryson. Every once in a while, usually if I somehow stumble upon it, I’ll read, say, a feature magazine article I’ve written in the past—just to remind myself that I’ve written something in the recent past that was publishable.

What’s your relationship with social media?

Such. A. Time. Suck. I do glean stuff from twitter and facebook – the occasional newspaper or magazine article I never would have come across – but generally I’m just getting what people ate for breakfast or their political views or their breakfast views. I know it’s mostly a waste of time yet I still am absorbed in the social media every day. And by now with, say, twitter, it seems like, as an author, it’s necessary for me to be on there. Or maybe that’s just the procrastination-inducing devil in my brain telling me this.

You lived in Italy while you wrote your book. What book or books did you use as guides while you were there (if any)?

I didn’t use any guidebooks (if that’s what you’re asking). I mostly just read a lot of centuries-old documents I’d unearthed in the Vatican Library that related to the book I was working on—16th-century histories of Jesus’ foreskin. Juicy stuff!

Now you live in New York City. What do you read to keep up with the news in your neighborhood/borough/city? What books, magazines, or articles would you recommend to someone visiting NYC?

I subscribe to The New Yorker, New York magazine, Time Out New York, the New York Review of Books. Plus, I have a digital subscription to the New York Times. All this keeps me pretty up to date, especially on the New York food and dining landscape which I write about when I’m not on the road.

What’s the last book you read?

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer. I’m currently reading an advanced copy of a new J. Maarten Troost book, Headhunters at my Doorstep. I like it.

Do you listen to any podcasts?

I always tell myself that I need to listen to podcasts but I never do. So, the answer is no.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t have a routine like me.

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