MARK LEYNER, 39, LIVES WITH HIS WIFE, Mercedes, and daughter Gaby, 21 months, in Hoboken, N.J., where he enjoys a custard doughnut with his black coffee and produces his maniacally imaginative prose with the fastidious zeal of "some mad jeweler agonizing over the most minute facet of every sentence."
How do you account for the bizarre juxtapositions and references in your work?
I am interested in everything sort of equally. I was one of those kids who would wake up really early and pick a volume of the encyclopedia and read it like a novel. When I ate cereal, I read everything on the box. My idea of heaven is a doctor's waiting room: a place to sit and read completely miscellaneous sorts of magazines as quickly as possible before you're handed the little cup.
What are you reading right now?
A guide to hair coloring, a book on capital punishment—my next novel opens with my father being executed by lethal injection—a biography of Sonic Youth and copies of Corrections Today, Gastroenterology and Packaging World.
Do you subscribe to these things?
Friends send me stuff. One thing people like about my work is the surprise of it, that your expectations are confounded at every turn. To give the reader that experience, I have to have a similar experience writing. So I try not to get habituated to any one kind of reading. There are cars now that have computerized maps, so it's harder to get lost. But getting lost is a great thing about traveling. One of the joys of life is being shocked and amazed, as Jessica Hahn used to say when she plugged her "intimate conversation" 900 number.