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Twenty Questions for “Devotion” Author Dani Shapiro

Rural Intelligence Community In the dozen years since Dani Shapiro published her best-selling memoir, Slow Motion (Random House), she has become a full-time country resident and written several well-received novels like 2007’s Black & White. Now, with her just-published memoir, Devotion (Harper, $24.99), which chronicles her interdenominational search for faith, it looks like Shapiro (who lives in Bethlehem, CT, with her husband and son) will be back on the best-seller list.  “She’s neither showboating nor seeking pat answers, but using honest self-reflection to provoke herself and her readers into taking stock of their own spiritual inventory,” says Publishers Weekly. “Absorbing, intimate, direct and profound, Shapiro’s memoir is a satisfying journey that will touch fans and win her plenty of new ones.”  Last week on The Huffington Post, the redoubtable Jesse Kornbluth, who edits Head, wrote that Devotion is “the one book that anyone over, say, 35,
Rural Intelligence Communityneeds to read right now . . . this is a writer’s book, artfully constructed. Shapiro doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the fact that her son was born with a condition that kills 85% of its victims. Or that her mother was an unhappy, competitive bitch who basically hated her. Or how her post 9/11 move from Brooklyn to rural Connecticut has brought some calm, but at a high price: the recognition of ‘a deep well of loneliness’.”

Yet it’s clear from her answers to our Twenty Questions that Shapiro indeed finds joy living in the Rural Intelligence region and you’ll probably run into her one day at a concert or a store. But if you’d like to meet her this month and purchase an autographed copy of her book, she’ll be speaking at Kripalu in Lenox, MA, on Saturday, February 6, at 7:30 p.m., and at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, CT, on Saturday, February 13, at 2 p.m.

1. Where do you go when you need serenity?
This may sound strange to say, but I love to drive the back roads of Litchfield County.  I have a ten-year-old son, and I’m constantly taking him to tennis or piano lessons, and those hours of driving in the car feels like a sanctuary to me.  Rural Intelligence Food  I never get tired of looking at the beauty all around us—the landscape, the vistas, the beautiful homes.

2. Where do you when you crave buzz? There are different kinds of buzz.  As a formerly urban creature, I still crave the city’s pace and rhythms, and my husband and I will occasionally go in for a great night at the Crosby Street Hotel and drinks and dinner at one of Danny Meyer’s restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, or his new one, Maialino.  Up here in the country, we love RSVP in Cornwall for dinner, and a wonderful new restaurant in Lenox, Nudel.

3. What’s your favorite library or bookstore?
The Hickory Stick in Washington Depot is our neighborhood bookstore, and I’m in there almost every day.

4. What’s you favorite place for bargain hunting?
My friend Richard Lambertson, who owns Privet House in Warren, has a spectacular summer tag sale that I never miss.

Rural Intelligence Community5. What do you buy for yourself when you need a treat and want to splurge?
Chocolate from Belgique (right) in Kent.  A massage at The Mayflower Inn & Spa.

6. What’s your favorite way to spend a Friday night?
Home with my husband and son, eating ravioli and watching a good film, the dogs curled up at our feet.

7. What’s your favorite way to spend a Sunday morning?
Sleeping in!

Rural Intelligence Community8. What’s your favorite one-hour drive from your house?
Great Barrington, for a long stop at Rubiner’s Cheesemongers and a cappuccino and grilled cheese sandwich at Rubi’s.

9.  Where’s your favorite place to hear live music?

10. What’s your favorite historical site?
The Litchfield Green.

Rural Intelligence Style 11. Where do you shop for clothes? Do you have a favorite salesperson?
There is a colorful, eclectic store in Woodbury called Verderosa that’s owned by a young woman named Utta who used to work for Calypso in East Hampton. She knits a lot of her own designs. I also like Parlour in Millerton, NY, which feels very much like a hip Brooklyn boutique.

12.  What’s your favorite hardware store or nursery?
Washington Supply.

13.  Who do you trust to recommend wines?
Bill Fore at County Wine and Spirits in New Preston, and Chris at Casa Bacchus in Litchfield.

14.  What three things do you always do with out of town guests?
A drive to New Preston; a drink in the tap room of The Mayflower; a hike in Steep Rock.

Rural Intelligence Community15.  Who are your local heroes?
When we first moved from New York to Bethlehem, the fact that Arthur Miller, William and Rose Styron, A.R. Gurney, Francine du Plessix Gray, Frank McCourt, and Philip Roth all lived nearby was comforting—to know that there is such a rich literary history in these hills.

16.  What newspapers, blogs or websites do you read every day?
The New York Times. I also check in on my writer friends’ blogs: Jane Green, Ann Leary, Martha McPhee, and Caroline Leavitt—I like to see what everyone’s up to!

17. What’s your favorite theatre?
Bantam Cinema.

18. Where’s your favorite place for breakfast?
Mamie’s in Roxbury.  Also, Dottie’s Diner, in Woodbury.

19. What’s the best thing about a New England winter?
I actually love getting snowed in.  We light a fire, pull blankets over ourselves and hunker down.  Nothing to be done, nowhere to go—suddenly it seems the world stops as it gets blanketed in snow.

20. What are you most looking forward to doing this spring?
I’m doing a lot of traveling this spring for Devotion—I’ll be all over the U.S., and then my husband, son and I go to Positano, Italy in March where we run a writers conference, Sirenland. That’s one of the highlights of our year.  When we come back from Italy, usually spring has just spring

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