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