Joanna Scott

Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, Scott lives with her family in upstate New York. Her most recent novel, Follow Me, was published by Little, Brown in April.

what are you reading now

Fallen Giants by Stewart Weaver and Maurice Isserman

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard

Germinal by Émile Zola

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

My Complete Stories of Kafka (Schocken) finally fell apart and I’ve had to get a new copy, to which I’ve been adding new scribbles.

if you could write yourself into any book or story

Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa — not only would I like to experience the scenes she so vividly renders, but I would welcome the chance to compare my impression of the place and people with her version.

most treasured book in your collection

A paperback copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Rolfe Humphries’ translation) that my husband gave me when we were still in college.

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

Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

May I finagle two subscriptions? I depend on Conjunctions and Black Clock for my basic literary nourishment. In real life, my list of necessary reading is long — the condensed list includes Cincinnati Review, Subtropics, Threepenny Review, and The New York Review of Books. Also, The Nation and its literary section is essential.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Female Convents: Secrets of Nunneries Disclosed, compiled from the autograph manuscripts of Scipio de Ricci by Mr. De Potter, edited and condensed by Thomas Roscoe. With whole libraries and archives coming online, all sorts of secrets are on the verge of being disclosed…

most anticipated upcoming release

Forthcoming in the fall, The Rags of Time by Maureen Howard — the fourth and final volume in her tetralogy of novels.

recommended reading list:

Ten Books to Read Before Writing Your First Novel (or Ten Books I Wish I’d Read Before Writing My First Novel)

- An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

- Middlemarch by George Eliot

- Our Ecstatic Days by Steve Erickson

- This is Not a Novel by David Markson

- Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

- Life of Pi by Yann Martel

- Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud

- Blindness by José Saramago

- Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

- The Waves by Virginia Woolf


Jessica Anthony

Jessica Anthony's debut novel The Convalescent was published by McSweeney's Books in July, and will be translated into Italian by Rizzoli/USA. Her fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading and elsewhere. She currently lives in Portland, Maine with her husband, Jon, and their dog, Roxy.

what are you reading now

Right now I'm reading The Women by T.C. Boyle, and loving it. I am an enormous Boyle fan. His prose is so hairy and big-gutted and his characters never try to be everything all at once.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

The great thing about finishing a novel is that you rediscover all these giant hunks of time in your day to read again. So I've been whittling away at my list. I just finished Jude the Obscure. I bought that book in 1997 and literally carried it around the world with me for 12 years. I've finally read it, and liked it quite a bit. I also just finished Lady Chatterly's Lover, which was hilarious. I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, riding the upstairs of a double-decker bus and laughing my ass off. Everyone was always about to come to their "crisis." Fantastic. Next up on my list of classics is Cyrano de Bergerac.

last book you finished in a single sitting

The Verificationist by Donald Antrim. An out-of-body experience with a gathering of psychologists in a pancake house. I mean come on! Couldn't put it down.

book you borrowed and never returned

I still owe my friend Rick Wormwood his first-edition copy of Nabokov's Speak, Memory. He will never get it back. He lives only a few miles from me and could break into my house and take it. Once Wormwood left a half rack of Corona in my garage with a note: Rick Wormwood moves like a thief in the fucken night, and despite even this generosity he will not be seeing his Nabokov again.

strangest book you’ve ever read

You and Your Retarded Child by Samuel A. Kirk, Merle B. Karnes, Winifred D. Kirk. This book was published in 1955 and given to me by the writer Tom Hopkins. He knows I like weird stuff, but this book was downright bizarre. They even use the word "mongoloid," and have a chapter entitled: "How Retarded Is Your Child?"

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

Herzog by Saul Bellow. The dust jacket is missing, and there it sits with its scruffy tan cover and green letters. I have read only the first chapter. It's looking at me now. It seems depressed.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

It would have to be Hannah Tinti's One Story. One Story is delivered in these amazing little pastel-colored packets, and each issue contains only one short story. It's nice to read short fiction without digging through advertising, or without a story having to bounce off other poems, other unrelated stories (or worse, essays). It is one selection of short fiction in its simplest (and strongest) form.

best thing you’ve read online recently

"Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood" by Michael Chabon. (I read it online, though it was published in The New York Review of Books a week ago.) It examines something now seeming to be lost to all of us: the ability for children to wander freely and create the rules that govern their own worlds.

most anticipated upcoming release

I am looking forward to reading Daniel Nester's How to Be Inappropriate, a collection of essays by Soft Skull Press.

recommended reading list:

Books I Know My Dog Would Like If She Could Read

A few years ago, my husband and I adopted a brown lab/bluetick coonhound mix from a rescue shelter in Georgia.

- The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

- The Zoo Story by Edward Albee

- I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

- The Sun is My Undoing by Marguerite Steen

- The Room by Harold Pinter

- Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens


Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie Johnson's short fiction collection One of These Things is Not Like the Others is available from Keyhole Books.

what are you reading now

I'm reading Italo Calvino's Difficult Loves and an advance copy of Shellie Zacharia's Now Playing, which is Keyhole's next book release. The voice in Zacharia's work is amazing -- playful and a pleasure to read. Kevin Wilson's Tunneling to the Center of the Earth is next.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Is this a trick question? It sounds like a trick question. I once admitted that I hadn't read One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I have since read) and was mocked openly and repeatedly as a "literary virgin." I don't think I should answer this question until I know that you're friendly...

last book to bring you to tears

I'm not sure what the last book was, but Larry Brown's short story "Facing the Music" kills me every single time I read it.

book you borrowed and never returned

I have trouble reading books other people have lent me or that I get from the library because I'm a book hoarder. I usually assume that if you're telling me to read something it's because you think I'll like it. When I like a book, I have to have a sense of mine, mine, mine! Borrow my car, eat all the food in the fridge and have a beer while you're at it, none of that bothers me.... but I'm incredibly possessive about my books and I (probably incorrectly) assume other people feel the same way, so "book-borrowing" isn't really in my vocabulary.

strangest dream involving a book or literary character

As soon as I put this on paper, I'll feel a need to dissect it using Freudian or Jungian analysis. Or, worse yet, someone with actual psychoanalytic dream-analysis expertise will uncover a deep-seated and horrifying element lurking in my unconscious mind... Either way, it's not going to be pretty...

I don't often dream of characters, but sometimes I dream about writers. I quit smoking when I found out I was pregnant with my son, but I'm still a smoker when I dream. Most of the dream-plots are pretty boring (I have a lazy unconscious-dream-mind), but I find them pleasant because they usually involve someone asking me if I want to go outside and smoke a cigarette.

favorite book from childhood

Like most kids, I was completely taken with Dr. Seuss. I also was addicted to Choose Your Own Adventure books.

longest book you’ve ever read

Infinite Jest. I had a wicked-bad literary crush on David Foster Wallace, and I read the book cover-to-cover when it was first released.

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

I don't have that kind of forethought anymore. If I know someone is coming over, more often than not, I'm trying to reduce the chaos -- not haul more out. However, I tend to get along well with people who have books by James Joyce or Flannery O'Connor on *their* coffee tables.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal


most anticipated upcoming release

I need to get a copy of Suzanne Burns's Misfits and Other Heroes and I'm looking forward to Laura van den Berg's What the World Will Look Like When all the Water Leaves Us.

recommended reading list:

Literary Comfort Food

I read an interview with David Foster Wallace where he suggested (and here I'll paraphrase poorly, I'm sure) that fiction's work is to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. That stuck with me as a noble goal -- both in terms of writing and reading. Below, are some of my favorite "comfort food" collections/books.

- Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver

- The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

- Dubliners by James Joyce

- Big Bad Love by Larry Brown

- Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson

- Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

- Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

- Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera

- Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez

- The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

- Valentines by Olaf Olafsson

- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse


Nicolle Elizabeth

Nicolle Elizabeth is a baker and bike mechanic. Her work has appeared in Elimae, Keyhole, Wigleaf, Night Train and others. Her chapbook, Threadbare Von Barren, is forthcoming on Paper Hero Press. She writes about translated literature at Words Without Borders.

what are you reading now

Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I’m not even kidding. I’m writing a YA novel and needed what seemed like a solid example of storytelling. It's woven together in a very straight-forward formulaic way which just flows so beautifully. It's a great example of how to transition complicated material from one scene to the next, plus the prose is quite poetic. I needed a generally accepted non-weird example of “how to write a novel” because I have no idea what I’m doing so I thought if I’m going to try to write a novel I’d better teach myself how to write a novel first or like at least see how a novel works. I took a novel workshop last year to try to learn but ended up writing an 81 page book told in short-shorts. I mean I loved the class but still. It’s weird, I have to print it out and look at it on the floor. Someone recently told me that’s how Aaron Sorkin wrote The West Wing. He had to put it all out on the floor and cut it up to get himself to see it all. I think I remember he was arrested at an airport with mushrooms in his briefcase like ten years ago or something? I asked Michael Cunningham a few years ago, when I realized I was going to write this YA novel I’m now finally just starting on, if it was hard to switch from one form to another. He looked at me like it was an absurd thing to ask and was like, “Well if it’s what you have to do then it’s what you have to do.” I usually write first-person shorts. I could care less if I make myself look ridiculous, but these characters are like people I owe something to. I mean, yes, I love shorts but this is so completely different. Another thing Michael Cunningham said was during the filming of The Hours, it was written that Juliet Lewis’s character was going to have a gun and shoot herself, and Michael was like, “No, she just wouldn’t do that. This character would never do that.” I’m starting to understand more deeply how important this relationship is. I’ve always had a good relationship with my characters, I love them, I respect them, but this project is pushing me so much harder. So, Michael went to Juliette Lewis and said, “Don’t you think she’d never do that?” And Juliette Lewis said she wouldn’t come to the set unless they rewrote the gun scene a different way. Stopped production of the film and everything. Two points here: don’t be scared to experiment in other forms, and get a celebrity to help. The Hours is a good book, btw. I’m really digging the existential musing/longing in Virginia Woolf’s head.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I’m aching to read Mary Gaitskill’s collection Don’t Cry. It’s been out for a minute I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Is that a classic? I’ve never read Elektra, can you believe it? It seems like something I would have read in detention hall.

last book to make you laugh out loud

Oh god. For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut by Takashi Hiraide (translated by Sawako Nakayasu) made me laugh hysterically but it was so sad too.

book you borrowed and never returned

In my possession, and I cannot believe I am admitting to this, is the only copy the Boston Public Library had of Murakami’s book of shorts. I am so sorry, BU freshman. I moved and found it years later, now it’s grown on me. “Barn Burning”, “The Iceman”, these are excellent short stories. I get in fights about his novels being too “targeted at male readers and too wordy-indulgenty” but those shorts are damn something. I should get a copy from the Strand and send the new one over there. Is that a felony? I just got up to see what it’s next to on my shelf. I’ve moved so things are a mess. The Day of the Locust by West and Train by Pete Dexter are the answers.

favorite book from childhood

Eloise at the Plaza. Still drives me wild. Never underestimate a wild daredevil brunette with big hair and a skate key. You go girl, imagine all you want. Actually, I also simultaneously think it’s one of the saddest books of all time. I mean, she was like, alone. I had an ex-boyfriend who felt she had some kind of illness. Dumped him.

most treasured book in your collection

My mom did a semester at a community college in the Bronx when she was 18. It was actually this huge honor a few years ago when I got to go back to this exact campus and teach literacy classes to kids who were failing out on Saturdays. I cried on the way every morning, true story. So my mom is quite possibly one of the most talented minds of all time, but she’s just not an academic, not her thing. Some people like cheese, I hate cheese. So for her semester of school, this was 1970 in the Bronx where she’s from, she bought herself a paperback copy of Webster’s Dictionary. It’s on my desk right now. I never keep it less than a desktop away, because I don’t know everything and sometimes need to look things up in it.

secret crush on a writer or literary character

That Blake Butler. He knows how I feel about this. I harass the shit out of him every chance I get. Ghost with the most, no doubt. I’m sure there’s a fan club somewhere. I’m sure half our contemporaries are secretly seethingly jealous of him. He’s smart but he’s got this Southern thing about him, whoooboy. He’s a good boy, it’s sweet. One time, we had this massive argument about David Foster Wallace, he was so pissed at me he had to excuse himself from the room. So we’re in a cab on the way to another ball of wax, and I have to have the cabbie pull over because I’m going to return the gin and tonics I’d been drinking all night back into the world, and it’s the dead of winter (and by the way I ruined my totally rad dress) so Blake jumps out of the cab and rubs my back. We’re standing in like six inches of slush its three in the morning, all of this after we’d had this major blow-out argument, and I look up at him through freezing tears and puke, and the face he’s making isn’t “I’m so pissed at you about earlier” or “what is this, high school?” The face he’s making is “I know, kiddo. I know.” I think this is a part of why people love him. That was like three minutes without me harassing him, too long. Attn Blake: HJ?

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

I love this question! It’s more like a “I want to share this book with everyone who sits on my couch” than an impress someone thing. It’s impossible for me to be impressive. Spend an hour with me I guarantee you’ll be annoyed and/or disappointed. I’ve accepted it. Recently, I overheard this guy ask another guy, “Have you read my book?” Think about that for a second. My roommates could be like Q: “Hey Nicolle, those cookies you forgot about in the oven that set on fire are still in the oven.” I’ll be like, “Have you read my book?” Q: “How do you feel about this whole Iranian election?” “Have you read my book?” Q: “Ma’am that will be twenty dollars for the groceries.” “Have you read my book?” Q: “We’re here, you can get off the bus now” “Have you read my book?” I actually adore art books a great deal. Robert Bergman who has portraits of people, a few are in MoMa, so my boss gave me a book of his. That was alright for conversation, people like that one. I have a manual on do-it-yourself electrical wiring which is a hard cover and nice on a coffee table, and on top of it The Collected Stories of Mark Twain, always Twain. Then there’s a rotating list. I had the graphic novel The Awake Field on there for a while, have you seen it? It’s meta. I bet if I put it in between the electrical wiring book and the Twain it'll make the lights flicker.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I love like probably 100 of them. I owe a lot of things to a lot of literary journals, like, you’ll see something in one and go, “Holy crap, you can do that?” literary journals are some of the best teachers we have. It’s not only that, there’s this actual friendship and mentorship chain of support that exists too. People who give feedback, all of these people are generous with their hearts and time, who I owe a debt of crap too. I love them a lot. They’re sort of like family, that I would sleep with, if they didn’t have hotter wives than me, who would probably beat me up. It’s like an army of good people shooting rainbows as snot rockets. They work their asses off for literature because they love it. There’s like no money in journal publishing realistically. As a fan there’s this "want to use the work as a blanket and roll around" side, and as a writer there’s this "these people will work with you" side.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Brian Foley in Front Porch 11, which is the Texas State MFA program’s journal. There’s this line at the end of the poem that’s about this guy shining a flashlight down an alley.

And shows what really stands
In your place when you leave

most anticipated upcoming release

Speaking of Bolaño, The Skating Rink is closer to The Savage Detectives and coming out soon. I know it’s passé to love Bolaño now, but I don’t care, I liked it anyway. Not as much as 2666 but still. Somebody told me “he speaks to mediocre readers” recently. That hurt my feelings. You know I heard Nicolle Elizabeth has a chapbook forthcoming on Paper Hero Press called Threadbare Von Barren. I might check it out. Cough.

recommended reading list:

Theme Stuff I Just Got Into This Year

Everybody has to read Three Cities of Water by Raúl Zurita. He was Bolaño’s nemesis, you know. At the end of Nazi Literature in the Americas, the guy Bolaño was hating on so much (the General) was supposed to be Zurita. Some people actually say that he ripped Zurita off a ton. They loathed each other. There’s this legend that Zurita had written a poem Bolaño was jealous of, so in the 70s Bolaño had it sky-written from a plane over New York City with the credit given to himself for the poem. How hysterical is that? True story. He looks sort of like Castro, or a wizard. I think he teaches at Tufts and that he’s banned from most countries for being so political. I mean the books are banned but he is too, as a human, which I love. It’s so glamorous to be banned from an entire country for being loud. Anyway, so he was reading at NYU this year and I was taking notes and I wrote down the sentences, “I sang with my mouth sewn shut. In the distance, the ocean.” And I couldn’t figure out which Zurita poem it was from. It drove me crazy. I called half the staff of BOMB. I emailed ten translators. Nobody knew. Turns out, I wrote those sentences, while listening to Zurita. Read Zurita. He’s damn inspiring. Read the collected stories of Paul Bowles, read the latest Jorie Graham.


Corey Mesler

Corey Mesler, a Trappist Monk, was raised by wolves. He has Canadian blood, which, unlike Canadian Bacon, doesn’t stay fresh if left out. He has rambled around some, mostly from the bed to the bathroom, and once saw Prince in the Los Angeles airport. He also dated Vanity’s sister, but has no claims to ethnic insider information. He published a novel once that some people liked, then another, then some short stories and a collection of verse. He has two novels due out in the next year. As of this date, he has written 3,281 poems. He also claims to have written “River Deep, Mountain High.” His wife tells him which shirt goes with which pants.

what are you reading now

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

classic you’ve been meaning to read

At the end of every year I choose a BIG classic I haven’t read. I do it to get to those books I’ve been meaning to get to, to celebrate living another year, and to slow myself down, which a good 19th century novel can do. I’m thinking this year’s selection might be Bleak House by Dickens.

most treasured book in your collection

We have a signed first edition of Zora Neale Hurston’s voodoo memoir, Tell My Horse. Don’t tell anyone.

book you borrowed and never returned

I never borrow. I have to own the things I read.

last reading you attended

Ann Fisher-Wirth reading from her wonderful new collection of poems, Carta Marina, at my very own bookstore.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

Well, certainly, Ulysses was challenging, but so rewarding, so rich and funny and sexy and, well, you know, everything that Joyce is. I found The Magic Mountain challenging in a different way. I never thought I’d get off that damn mountain and out of that damn sanatorium. Also William Gaddis’s The Recognitions is a difficult novel but worth the trip.

if you could write yourself into any novel

It would be fun to go On the Road, wouldn’t it? Except that I have clean bathroom issues so I probably wouldn’t enjoy that as much. I’d say maybe John Crowley’s Little, Big, so I could meet fairies, but also so I could try to bed Daily Alice.

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

I don’t have a coffee table but I keep Finnegan’s Wake on my desk next to me where I write. To impress anyone who ventures into my writing lair (no one ever does) and to remind myself that I haven’t read it and am afraid of it. It’s good to have a book you’re afraid of to keep you humble.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

The Pinch, of course. Out of our very own University of Memphis. A first-rate journal.

best thing you’ve read online recently

I like anything Marly Youmans puts in her blog. Same with Susan Henderson and Selah Saterstrom.

most anticipated upcoming release

Any time there is a new Philip Roth due I am excited. And since there is almost always a new Philip Roth due I am in a constant state of anticipatory enthusiasm.

recommended reading list:

Books You Might Not Read Unless Someone Told You To, And I Am Telling You To

Little, Big by John Crowley

Season of the Witch by James Leo Herlihy

Tunnel of Love by Peter DeVries

The Catherine Wheel by Jean Stafford

Beast in View by Margaret Millar

The Crock of Gold by James Stephens

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Fisher’s Hornpipe by Todd McEwen

A Father’s Words by Richard Stern

Mercury by Cary Holladay

Book by Robert Grudin

Julian’s House by Judith Hawkes

The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern

Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey

Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

Darconville’s Cat by Alexander Theroux

The Ecstasy of Owen Muir by Ring Lardner, Jr.