Alan Lightman is the author of five novels, two collections of essays, and several books on science. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among many other publications. A theoretical physicist as well as a novelist, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, and was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment at MIT in science and in the humanities.
His new novel is Ghost.
From a Q & A at the publisher's website:
Q: The main character in your newest novel Ghost works in a funeral home. David K is a rational man who, as the book opens, cannot deny to himself that one day, at work, he saw something irrational, not of this world — an image, or spirit, something he can not explain as a trick of the eye. What are you hoping to establish by opening the novel this way?Read the entire Q & A.
A: I think that the opening of any novel should forcefully draw the reader into the world that the writer has created. Much of the action of Ghost takes place in the interior mental world of the main character, David K, as he agonizes over his unexplainable metaphysical experience. I wanted to throw the reader immediately into that tortured state of mind. The first chapter differs from the rest of the novel in that it is a first person narrative, while the rest of the book is third person. I intended here for the first person voice to be immediate and gripping and disturbing. David's metaphysical experience really launches the action of the book. All the foundations of his life — his understanding of the way the world works and his relationships with people — are thrown into chaos after that defining metaphysical experience. Rather than give a slow lead up to that moment, I decided to begin a few days after it has occurred, describe David's extreme disorientation without describing the apparition itself, and then backtrack in time. In this way, I hoped to create suspense at the very beginning of the book and a strong forward motion.