Greg Ames

Greg Ames is the author of Buffalo Lockjaw, a novel that received a starred review from Kirkus in 2009: “In this beautifully observed debut, a son wrestles with the possibility of assisted suicide for his mother, stricken with Alzheimer’s. Ames skillfully counterpoints nursing home visits with boozy reunions with old friends and sprinkles in interviews with Buffalo locals. These interviews highlight a string of exuberant eccentricity and provide bright splashes of narrative color. Buffalo Lockjaw is a debut novel about hard choices and doing the right thing that is modest, moving and true.” His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney’s, Open City, failbetter.com and Unsaid, among others. He lives and works in Brooklyn and can be reached at http://gregames.com/.

what are you reading now

I’ve got some library books about Eugene Ionesco on my desk right now. I saw the play Exit the King at the Barrymore Theater about a month ago and it blew me away. It’s all about death—the inevitability of death—but it’s a hilarious play and we laughed out loud about fifty times. When the king, played by Geoffrey Rush, took his last breath and the house went dark, the whole audience jumped to its feet for a standing ovation. Afterwards, my companion and I walked around Manhattan for hours in a sort of thrilled daze. We were both feeling grateful just to be alive. A month later, I’m still asking myself all these weighty questions: How am I to live a full and passionate life? How can I experience a moment? Fucking Ionesco! He’s in my head now. He got me good. I want to see Exit the King again. Everybody should see it, I think.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Buddenbrooks. I’ve been meaning to read it for about seventeen years now.

last book to bring you to tears

“What Feels Like the World,” a short story by Richard Bausch, made me tear up on a Greyhound bus. It’s concise and compassionate and amazingly good. One of the best short stories I’ve ever read. But I doubt it would make me cry today. I think I was just having a rough day.

book you borrowed and never returned

I borrowed Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up from a friend and last week he asked me about it. He wants it back now and I haven’t even cracked it yet. Generally I don’t like to borrow books because I’m such a fickle reader. I would much rather own the book and read it when I’m ready or maybe just let it fester on the shelf beside Buddenbrooks for seventeen years. I’ll probably just return Born Standing Up to this guy and buy it some other time.

worst book-to-film adaptation

There have been so many. That list is way too long. Let’s think about the good ones, which are more rare, I think. Here’s my list: Double Indemnity, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, The Last Picture Show, Jean de Florette, The Shining, The Ice Storm, The Sweet Hereafter and Wonder Boys.

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

Probably Hemingway’s stories. I’d put “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” in my top five of all-time. I’m also a big fan of “Cat in the Rain,” “Soldier’s Home,” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

My coffee table is not clear enough for me to be strategically laying out books. There’s shit everywhere in my apartment: papers, clothes, general mess. If someone’s coming over, I’ll clean it up and pretend to be a normal human being, but within days the apartment’s back to a state of emergency again.

best american short stories, pen/o. henry prizes, or the pushcart prize anthology

All of them. Especially BASS 1993 (“Charlotte” and “The Girl on the Plane”) and 1998 (“The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue”), and almost everything in O. Henry 97, 98, 99. Puschcart is interesting every year.

recommended reading list:

Nine Books That More People Should Know About

- Jernigan by David Gates

- The Gifts of the Body by Rebecca Brown

- Flying Leap by Judy Budnitz

- Headlong by Michael Frayn

- Collectors by Paul Griner

- The Philosopher’s Club by Kim Addonizio

- Viper Rum by Mary Karr

- Kafka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard

- Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson


Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla is the author of The Withdrawal Method (stories) and All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts (poems, sort of).

what are you reading now

The Culture of Cities by Lewis Mumford, The Brothers Karamazov (slowly) and True to Life, Lawrence Weschler’s book about David Hockney. I just finished César Aira’s Ghosts, which I liked a lot. Next up is Mary Robison's One D.O.A., One on the Way and A Heart So White by Javier Marías.

last book to make you laugh out loud

FreeDarko's The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. What a hilarious, smart, bizarre and beautiful book!

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.

book you borrowed and never returned

When I was a kid I took a book called Goalkeepers Are Different out of the library and never returned it. I hid it guiltily in my sock drawer and snuck secret late-night peeks. I was a soccer goalie and it felt like something important to own, I guess.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

I tried to read some Merleau-Ponty once. That was a failed enterprise, holy shit.

last reading you attended

A joint McSweeney's-Rumpus event in New York. Was really impressed by Jessica Anthony, who read from her new novel, The Convalescent.

weirdest dream involving a book or literary character

Not sure if this counts, but earlier this week I had a dream that Method Man was terrorizing my mom on a weekly basis. He'd drive up to her house with a weird Warholian entourage (which included a wispy Neko-Twiggy hybrid who stood disinterestedly on the lawn smoking cigarettes), Meth would demand that she hand over her microwave or blender and then drive away with it. Obviously, when I found out about this I was incensed -- but Method Man was unrepentant, even when I told him what a Wu-Tang fan I used to be. He kept saying, "Nah B, nah B, you best step off." What an asshole.

most treasured book in your collection

A first edition hardcover of Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World -- one of my all-time favourites, for sure.

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

Auto-Urine Therapy by "An Experienced Physician." It's a guide to the health and spiritual benefits of drinking your own pee. So maybe not "impress," exactly...

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Hobart. Aaron Burch is a friend and a great guy, but this is also one of the very few journals that I read cover to cover, every issue. Or maybe Ninth Letter, just because it looks so pretty.

best thing you’ve read online recently

This WikiAnswer:

Q: What does "return in spades" mean?

A: 'return in spades' usually means revenge. someone will return or pay back in spades to someone for something they did to them. let's say you sucker punch me in the face. i pay you back in spades by blasting you back in the face with a baseball bat.

most anticipated upcoming release

Dalkey Archive is putting out an anthology of European writers and in it will be a translation of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's meditation on Zinedine Zidane. Hear it's pretty awesome.

recommended reading list:

Books by Canadians Who Are Alive

- Cape Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada by Ray Smith

- The Man Game by Lee Henderson

- Alligator Pie and Garbage Delight by Dennis Lee

- Airstream Land Yacht by Ken Babstock

- Blue Gold by Maude Barlow

- Selected Blackouts by John Goldbach

- Angel Square by Brian Doyle

- All the Anxious Girls on Earth by Zsuzsi Gartner

- Lenny Bruce is Dead by Jonathan Goldstein (not sure if he's actually

- Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy

- Seventeen Tomatoes by Jaspreet Singh

- Augustine in Carthage by Alex Porco

- Sitcom by David McGimpsey


Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy's first novel, The Slide, was published this year by The Dial Press/Random House. His short fiction has appeared in Hobart, decomP, The2ndHand, Otium, and as a Featherproof Mini-Book. He's received fellowships from The Breadloaf Writers' Conference, The Danish Centre for Writers and Translators, and he teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

what are you reading now

A collection of thirteen Joseph Campbell lectures called, Transformations of Myth Through Time.

last book to make you laugh out loud

Amelia Gray's AM/PM. What I thought was going to be a collection of clever little things revealed itself to be much much bigger and better and just downright hilarious.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

The Master and Margarita. I've tried, I try, but right now I can not. And tomorrow I likely will not. The outlook is sour but I'm trying.

book you borrowed and never returned

Fat City, by Leonard Gardner…except now I've gone over to my shelf and opened the book to find an inscription from my friend Chris Bower, which reads: It's not a book that's going to change the color of your eyes but it might change the color of your barely visible hair…and if the scene about collecting nuts doesn't kill you, I will. So I suppose this was actually a gift from Chris, which is thoughtful and I should remember to thank him.

My revised answer is A Gravity's Rainbow Companion (which I can't look at without thinking of "The Rainbow Connection", performed by either Kermit or Willie, or dare we imagine, a duet).

most devastating novel you’ve ever read

Devastation is hard, because if that's all the book offers I'll quit. I have no problem dropping a book if it's not rewarding me in ways that I believe I deserve, or if I feel manipulated. So I'll say Blood Meridian, which once I open I can never put down despite the relentless and varied ways by which it beats a reader senseless. Is there a more devastating character than the Judge?

last reading you attended

Man, Chicago. Hell of a city for readings. Tonight I'm going to hear Jean Thompson read at the Book Cellar, about as rad a bookstore as you're likely to find.

weirdest dream involving a book or literary character

I've had some pretty gnarly whale visions, but I don't know if they should be attributed to Moby Dick or the Bible. I've been swallowed by a whale in a dream, one of those Jungian all-you-can-eat buffet dreams where everything is swallowing everything. But I've also chased the whale in a dream. I was on a jet ski with a butter knife pinched between my teeth like some tangoist with a rose. This was years and years ago, back when I was playing A LOT of Wave Race on the Nintendo 64.

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

It was as much to test as it was impress, a kind of dual-action planting. The book was Calvin and Hobbes, The Days Are Just Packed, and her reaction couldn't have been more perfect. She picked it up and flipped through the pages and then, smiling, told a story about her childhood, or her travels, or the several ways she has managed over the years to break her nose, and at that point I knew I would like her to stay.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Paper Egg, the Featherproof subscription and delivery series, if we can count that. I'm bad with journals. I am constantly remiss. I don’t – we can be honest here I think – I don't read a lot of short stories because I'm always working on a novel, and so I have to read long things that are big and long and succeed and fail in the unique ways big long things do, so that I can learn from them. And steal.

best thing you’ve read online recently

"Tuesday", by Lindsay Hunter, at SmokeLong Quarterly.

most anticipated upcoming release

If there is indeed a shred of either decency or hope in this world, someone will soon publish my friend Odie Lindsay's amazing collection of short stories, called Hers. Otherwise, I've just this morning become very excited for the currently untitled and un-release-dated Barry Hannah novel from which the excerpt in the June Harper's has been excerpted.

recommended reading list:

Eight (Plus) Women

Following a vigorous argument about the pronunciation of "Zooey" apropos of both Miss Deschanel and the Salinger character, a singer from New York challenged me to name my five favorite female characters in novels. I think she harbored suspicions about me being one of these litero-misogynists, and I got all sensitive and defensive for a while, frightened that she was right. Now, as a gesture of both personal affirmation and a nice healthy middle-finger to the singer, here are more than five of my favorite female characters, along with the books in which they live.

- Aunt Sylvie, in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

- Brita, in Mao II by Don DeLillo

- Sasha, in You Don't Have to Live Here by Natasha Radojcic

- Jade Butterfield, in Endless Love by Scott Spencer

- Money, in Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison

- Joelle Van Dyne (a.k.a. "Madame Psychosis" a.k.a. "The Prettiest Girl of All Time"), in Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

- Phuong and Phuong's scheming sister, in The Quiet American by Graham Greene

- Every single amazing female character, in Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett