Thomas Cooper is the author of Phantasmagoria, a chapbook collection of flash fiction (Keyhole Press, 2009). His work has recently appeared in New Orleans Review, Sonora Review, Blackbird, Beloit Fiction Journal, and Quick Fiction. He’s at work on another collection of stories, Hellions, and a novel.
what are you reading now
I’m a dipper. I guess I have a problem committing. I usually keep little stacks of books around the house and work my way through them, a little here, a little there. Right now I’m reading Blake Bailey’s biography Cheever, which seems just as good as his work on Richard Yates. Mary Robison’s One D.O.A., One on the Way. Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen. Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World. Nabokov’s The Eye. Deb Olin Unferth’s Vacation. Also, Frederick Barthelme and Denis Johnson’s new novels. All of this probably makes it sound like I’m a far more voracious reader than I am. It’ll take me a long time to finish them all. Say around 2012.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
I’ve been meaning to revisit more than anything else. I don’t remember a lot of the Nabokov I read in my early twenties. I would love to revisit some of Saul Bellow’s big novels, the doorstop ones. Flaubert’s Sentimental Education. Shakespeare, I don’t remember nearly as much I should. It’s embarrassing. I always feel like someone’s going to jump out of the bushes and quiz me. You know, “Quick, Hamlet, act III, scene i. Give me a quote. You have five seconds.”
last book to bring you to tears
This is a tough one. The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Especially the end.
book you borrowed and never returned
The last time I moved I came across a library book that was due in 1992. A Woody Allen biography. I don’t know how this happened. It’s probably only a matter of time before they find me and break down the door in the middle of the night.
best book title
I came across this one the other month called How to Avoid Huge Ships (Second Edition) by Captain John W. Trimmer. I thought that was great. That led to How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. Which in turn led to Bombproof Your Horse: Teach Your Horse to Be Confident, Obedient, and Safe, No Matter What You Encounter.
worst book-to-film adaptation
I’m more disappointed with adaptations than not. So much is lost in translation. Maybe it’s best to watch an adaptation with a different set of expectations. I was very impressed with the Coen Brothers’s adaptation of No Country For Old Men. Then again, I think it was the most script-like of McCarthy’s novels.
most difficult book you’ve ever read
I have trouble with a lot of Joyce and Faulkner. Usually it’s difficulty that pays off, though.
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
I think the people who come over are amazed that I have a coffee table period.
best american short stories, pen/o. henry prizes, or the pushcart prize anthology
I try to read all of them. If hard-pressed, I would have to say Pushcart, if only for its variety. There is a certain amount of predictability in the O. Henry and Best American Prizes. Good predictability, but predictability nonetheless. For instance, you know you’re going to see something by Alice Munro every year, and three or four things out of The New Yorker. I was disappointed to see the demise of Best New American Voices. Sign of the times, I guess.
collected stories of
Only one? Flannery O’Connor.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
This is hard. I like so many of them. I guess I have to go with Opium. Not only have they been very kind and supportive, but the journal is always weird and fun and eye-pleasing.
I’ll cheat and say I also have a special place in my heart for Quick Fiction, for the same reasons.
best thing you’ve read online recently
This place called Wigleaf publishes an annual list of the best online short-shorts. Since you said “thing,” I’ll choose this, because it allows me to cover a lot of territory.
most anticipated upcoming release
I’m looking forward to some stuff coming out in the fall. The new Jonathan Lethem, William Gay, Lorrie Moore.
recommended reading list:
- David Gates’s Jernigan
- Sam Lipsyte’s Home Land
- Barry Hannah’s Airships
- Thom Jones’s Pugilist at Rest
- Rebecca Curtis’s Twenty Grand and Other Tales of Love and Money
- Joy Williams’s Honored Guest
- Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever
- Robert Olen Butler’s Tabloid Dreams
- Denis Johnsons’s Jesus’s Son
- Edward P. Jones’s All Aunt Hagar’s Children
- Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex
- George Saunders’s CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.
I should stop while I’m ahead.