Kate Christensen

When novelist Kate Christensen was just a toddler, she witnessed her father beating her mother. It was a scene that would haunt Christensen for decades.

And so it's with a description of that morning that she chooses to begin her memoir Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites. The book that unfolds is an examination of the reverberations of her father's violence in her life, and a meditation on how her love of food helped her cope.

As a child, she tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, she refused to identify with her mother in the scenario.

These days, it's often noted that food has displaced art, sport and even sex as the literary mind's propulsive muse. The single cookie that launched poor Proust on his interior odyssey feels shockingly modest compared with the vast smorgasbord today's writers seem almost compelled to revel in.

My summer reading preferences are so particular they have, at times, stopped me from reading at all. I need a romance for a train trip — for obvious reasons. When it's hot, I prefer something with no climate congruence at all; I've never enjoyed Anna Karenina so much as I did on the beach (that romance is a train exception — er ... for obvious reasons). When I'm on a plane trip, I like a passel of good young-adult novels, filled with cliffhangers, reversals and quick emotion. It's a mood makeover in flight.