Our father told it that Jim was caught dressing up in my grandmother’s black Mikimotos when he was scarcely two years old, but the first time I considered jewelry was the morning I stole my mother’s wedding ring. It was white gold. A hundred-year-old Art Nouveau band with eleven diamonds in two rows across the finger, garnets that were sold as rubies in the centers of tiny roses on both sides, and hand-engraved scrollwork on the underside where it held the skin. It was the only precious thing she had left. It was never from her hand. But there it was on the sill of the window, above the kitchen sink, next to a yellow-and-green plant she kept.

Long familiar to anyone following the brilliant literary annual NOON, Clancy Martin’s saga of brothers enmeshed in the mischievous world of jewelry sales became a sensation upon publication in novel form by Farrar, Straus and Giroux a year ago as How To Sell, being selected as a best novel of the year by The Times Literary Supplement, The Kansas City Star, The Guardian, Publisher’s Weekly, and others. It was apparent to anyone reading that this was no ordinary tale of greed, moral decay, and possible redemption—the author had not only lived through a great deal of what he wound up writing about, he’d become a philosophy professor whose emphasis was on self-deception. On the occasion of the paperback release of How To Sell, I spoke to Clancy about the themes of his novel, what we can expect from philosophy, and, of course, love.

For an excerpt of How To Sell, click here.