Todd Colby interviews Jesse Browner

Todd Colby, extraordinary poet, HE veteran and friend of ours, is going to be doing regular blog posts for the Happy Ending Series. He’s the author of four books of poetry published by Soft Skull Press. He keeps a blog at

As if you didn’t already have tickets, Happy Ending is doing a show tomorrow in partnership with Yaddo, at which we will welcome readers Helen Schulman, Jesse Browner and Walter Kirn; the musical guest Mark Eitzel; and live cartooning by Michael Arthur. In preparation for what is sure to be a most magical holiday gift of a literary and musical evening, writer and dear friend Todd J. Colby sat down recently with one of our headliners, Jesse Browner. Jesse is the author of, most recently, the novel Everything Happens Today. He’s also, as you’ll learn below, an early bird, an avid and simultaneous reader, and an accomplished chef. And this is what his desk looks like: 

Jesse Browner’s library-esque workspace

Note: Todd’s questions are numbered, and Jesse’s answers are not. Enjoy!
1) Recently you prepared a dinner for 24 people. What was on the menu?
Orpheus in Hell: grilled artichoke bottoms and goat cheese on a bed of frisee lettuce, crispy pancetta and caramelized shallots.
Oxtails braised in fennel and orange
Mascarpone polenta
Sautéed broccoli rabe
Birthday cake (from Balthazar)
2) You are an early riser and do most of your writing before the sun is up. Do you have any favorite rituals before you sit down to write? 
Does a cup of tea count as a ritual? I just try to get to work as soon as I can, because it’s all over by 7 a.m.
3) What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Poached egg, pancetta, English muffin
4) Name three books next to your bed.
They Were Counted, Miklós Banfy
Journey by Moonlight, Antal Szerb
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
5) As a translator of Paul Eluard and Jean Cocteau have you ever thought about how wonderful it would be to translate the complete works of Max Jacob?
I’m sure it would be, but I’d like to move on to a new challenge. I’d like to move on from the moderns to the classics. Ideally, someone would pay me handsomely to retranslate the entire Memoirs of Saint-Simon, and I’d spend the rest of my life doing it at a leisurely, civilized pace.
6) Where and when did you have the single best dining experience of your life? 
That’s not possible to answer. Here’s a lovely memory, though. Sailed overnight with a friend from Orient to Martha’s Vineyard. Arrived too early; the harbormaster wasn’t up yet. Waiting for him in Edgartown Bay, had sweet mountain gorgonzola and dry vermouth for breakfast as the sun rose.
7) Your house is on fire. You can grab one object. What do you grab and why?
My dog is not an object, right? Otherwise, hands down, the iPhone. I’m constantly emailing myself the latest drafts of my books, so it’s the one place I know I can find the entire history of all my projects.


2 responses

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    >Love this interview and love seeing the photo of the writing desk!

  2. Anonymous Avatar


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