How Marlon James, Novelist, Spends His Sundays

The author Marlon James has jokingly described his “Dark Star” fantasy trilogy as the “African ‘Game of Thrones.’” After the series made its debut in 2019 with “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the actor Michael B. Jordan, of “Black Panther” fame, snapped up the film rights. “Moon Witch, Spider King,” the second book in the series,was published Tuesday.

Mr. James, 51, a native of Jamaica who won the Man Booker Prize in 2015, lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He hates Sundays.

SLOW START OMG, the moment I open my eyes on a Sunday I close them right back again. It’s 6 a.m. and I still have the blackout curtains drawn. I do a lot of reading once I’m awake. I have this light, it’s like having a flashlight attached to my neck, and I’m like a kid sneaking stories in bed. I just finished the novel “Passing.”

GREATNESS I’m one of those diligent make-your-bed-every-morning people. Few things depress me more than going to sleep in an unmade bed. I think it’s because I place a very high value on sleep. What happens next is I read Pitchfork Media’s Sunday Review, because it’s a review of an old record that could be one I haven’t heard. The thing about the records they review is they have no context other than their own greatness. It could be a Bollywood soundtrack or a Minnie Riperton album. Part of my routine used to be going to Rough Trade to buy the record, but they moved.

Mr. James with his partner, Nicholas Boggs, at Gertie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a favorite breakfast spot.Credit…Stephanie Mei-Ling for The New York Times

COMFORTS I get distracted and waste my time watching tear-jerky YouTube videos of dog and soldier reunions, then I go to find breakfast. Sunday is the only day I don’t make my own breakfast. My partner, Nicholas Boggs, and I will go to Gertie, which is a Jewish heritage kind of diner. Occasionally I go to Egg Shop on Eighth Street. They have things like an AEC, which is eggs and Cheddar cheese on a brioche roll that I’ve mistakenly called an AOC.

ON CALL When I come back here, I usually have to deal with people who don’t respect the sanctity of my Sunday, like the production team for this TV show I’m working on called “Get Millie Black,” a detective show set in the U.K. and Jamaica. It’s produced by HBO and hopefully will be out around this time in 2023. When you’re a writer, there’s no days off.

In his home office. He has a separate office in the novelist John Wray’s home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a sort of artists’ colony exists.Credit…Stephanie Mei-Ling for The New York Times

WORK MATES I don’t do creative work on a Sunday, so I won’t write, but I might edit. If I’m doing serious editing, I bike to my office in Park Slope. Yep, you’re damn right that’s my cardio. My office is in John Wray’s house. At any given moment there could be four or five writers working there. We commandeer his bedrooms. At one point there were two finalists for the National Book Award there, me and Susan Choi. She took over from when Nathan Englander was there.

MANIC SUNDAY I don’t know how people find Sundays relaxing. Monday is more relaxing. Since I was a kid I’ve always hated Sunday. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a TV and so you’d have Sunday radio, which was morose church music or stories about such and such hasn’t seen his brother in 20 years and is trying to find him. When the Bangles came up with “Manic Monday,” where they talk about, “I wish it was Sunday, ‘cause that’s my fun day,” I think, No. What are you girls talking about?

Mr. James with his friend Lisa Lucas, a book publisher, at McNally Jackson. “I’m always buying books.”Credit…Stephanie Mei-Ling for The New York Times

INSPIRATION Often I’ll go to McNally Jackson. I’m always buying books. More than I’ll ever read. I could also go to check out a new record shop. I’ve been wowed by this artist L’Rain; people call her experimental, but it’s almost as if she takes the core elements of R&B and electronica and African sounds, breaks them apart and puts them back together. People who are usually like, “I don’t like your weird stuff,” actually love it.

Mr. James cooking for friends in his home in Williamsburg. He is a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean-style dishes. “Now he’s going to think I’m stalking him.”Credit…Stephanie Mei-Ling for The New York Times

JUST A FAN If I’m cooking dinner on a Sunday it will be for company, because cooking for one is weird and I grew up cooking for six. I’ll make something in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book. I have a whole folder of Ottolenghi dishes. They’re Mediterranean influenced. I met him years ago and now he’s going to think I’m stalking him.

FINAL SLIDE I usually go to bed around 11:30 listening to music like Nick Drake or Brian Eno’s ambient stuff. I’m pretty religious about it. I just sort of slide into a made bed.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Marlon James on Twitter at @MarlonJames5.

Related Articles

Back to top button