When Fitten was 19, he told his parents he was moving to Europe to become a writer. "At that point, I was young. I just knew I wanted to be a writer, and I read those stories of young men going to Paris and eventually writing a brilliant novel, but Paris was expensive,'' he said. After several years in Hungary, he came home and attended Kennesaw State University in Georgia, earning a master's degree in professional writing. He also was an editor for the Chattahoochee Review. In 2010, Fitten released his first novel, Valeria's Last Stand, and the second in the "Paprika Trilogy,'' Elza's Kitchen, was released in July. Fitten's novels deal with changing political times in Eastern Europe as well as personal transitions. We caught up with Fitten, who lives in Georgia, by phone.
What's on your nightstand?
I've got Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination by Robert Jourdain.
Do you recommend it?
It is a scientific book, but yes. I wanted to understand music in a more scientific way. It . . . does things like explain the construction of the ear and how sound gets processed. I also have another . . . On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction by Brian Boyd. It talks about evolution and whether the need or desire to tell stories is embedded in our DNA.
As far as storytelling being embedded in our DNA, did the book help you with your craft?
Both books encouraged the thinking that we are already hard-wired. So, yes it did. When it comes to writing, the formulaic works. For example, I tell a joke. It has a rhythm to it, and when the punch line comes, it plays with the brain.
Besides yours, what book based in contemporary Hungary do you recommend?
The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. It's really lush. I love the tone of it and the atmosphere. He just nails it. It is about a circus coming to a small town in Hungary.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer