David Bezmozgis was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1973. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, won a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was a 2004 New York Times Notable Book. His second book,The Free World, was published by FSG in March 2011. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. In 2010, he was named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” You can follow him on Twitter @dbezmozgis. What happens when the writer you admire most becomes your friend? In an essay he published in The New York Times in 1981, the writer Leonard Michaels cited the works of three writers who influenced him—Saul Bellow, Wallace Stevens, and Chekhov. He then wrote: “Finally, the writer who influences me more than any other: Isaac Babel. I never talk about his work.” Implicit was the idea that, if you were a writer, you were a fool or a heretic to say anything about your deepest and most fundamental influence.