I’ve been told that reading The Latecomer is like taking a tour of this author’s brain, which is a pretty alarming thing to hear if you’re a novelist who’s never written autobiographically.

I have to agree, however. This novel is a grab bag of some of my favorite obsessions: subjects as weirdly diverse as antiques, right wing politics, outsider art, Jewish history and Mormon history and culture. And how could we forget
. . . hoarders?

Here is a list of some of the books I read and thought about as I was writing the novel:

The Many Deaths of Jew Süss
By Yair Mintzker

This was an invaluable book about the historical figure whose fictional descendants, the Oppenheimers of New York City, are at the heart of The Latecomer.

Joseph Oppenheimer (1698-1738), a “court Jew” to Duke Karl Alexander of Württemberg in Stuttgart was also known as “Jud Süss”. His fortunes turned when his boss and protector died suddenly, and his subsequent vilification, imprisonment, trial and execution were further weaponized and distorted centuries later in Joseph Goebbels’ 1939 Nazi propaganda film, Jud Süss. The real Oppenheimer had a daughter who died in infancy, but no surviving children.

A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions
By Jo Farb Hernandez 

The Latecomer is a book about art, and how it works upon us. In flight from his family, Salo Oppenheimer assembles a world-class collection of twentieth-century paintings in a former warehouse in a remote corner of Brooklyn, unconcerned with the value of the paintings he chooses or the reputations of their makers.

The single outlier in his collection is the Outsider Artist Achilles G. Rizzoli (1896-1981), an obscure San Francisco draftsman whose plans for a fantasy city and renderings of people as architecture were saved from a dumpster after his death. This book by Jo Farb Hernandez has been my Rizzoli bible since its publication, and I referred to it many times during the writing of The Latecomer.

A nearly forensic study of family conflict . . . both compulsively readable and thought-provoking.
New York Times
on The Latecomer
The Lost Book of Mormon: A Quest for the Book That Just Might Be the Great American Novel
By Avi Steinberg

My fascination with all things Latter-day Saints is well known to my friends and family, if not entirely understood by them. Why should a nice Jewish atheist like myself care so much about Joseph Smith’s wanderings in the Sacred Grove, or what Brigham Young must have been feeling when he looked out over the Emigration Valley and declared “This is the place”?

Luckily, I’m not the only one playing in this particular sandbox. New Yorker writer Avi Steinberg “went there” in a way I never could have, traveling to all of the important locations in The Book of Mormon and investigating what may or may not have happened there, and why it matters. He also did something truly gutsy in Palmyra, New York, where the Mormon Church began, but you’ll have to read his book to find out what it was.

My Judy Garland Life
By Susie Boyt

This the memoir that really got me thinking about what it means to be born later in a family, not – in this case – by some human intervention (like the “Latecomer” of my title), but just . . . later. Boyt was eight years younger than her next sibling and had a very different childhood than they did. That experience led to her Judy Garland obsession, which she explores in her memoir.

The World According to Garp
By John Irving

More than any other novel, I thought about Garp while writing The Latecomer. Garp, which I first read during the summer of 1976 (along with the entirety of the reading public that year) is an ecstatic, turbulent, hilarious and devastating story about an unwieldy family full of indelible characters, where plot lines, absurdities and tragedies converge at the end. Always, when I mention the novel in front of audiences, there is the same response: a great “Ahhhh” of pleasure, emitted communally, even harmoniously. That’s an amazing tribute to a novel that is still so loved and treasured, forty-five years after publication! Every time I hear it, I think: this is the greatest thing a novelist can aspire to. John Irving, I salute you!

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Jean Hanff Korelitz

The new page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of The Plot and You Should Have Known, which became the major hit series The Undoing.

About the Author

Jean Hanff Korelitz was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the bestselling author of the novels A Jury Of Her Peers, The Sabbathday River, The White Rose, Admission, and most recently the New York Times bestseller You Should Have Known, as well as Interference Powder, a novel for middle grade readers, and The Properties of Breath, a collection of poetry.

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