Caitlin Horrocks’ fiction has appeared in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009, The Paris Review, Tin House, Prairie Schooner, Epoch and elsewhere. Her stories have been short-listed in Best American Short Stories and won awards from the Atlantic Monthly and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and online at www.caitlinhorrocks.com.
what are you reading now
I staggered home from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference this summer with a suitcase full of wonderful fiction that I’m slowly making my way through. Currently in the stack: Things That Pass for Love by Allison Amend, The New Valley by Josh Weil, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson, What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn, Red Weather by Pauls Toutonghi, and more. It’s a big stack.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. It’s one of those books I know enough about to occasionally reference: “forerunner of post-modernism etc. etc. etc.” But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to talk about books I haven’t actually read, so I’m hoping to get to it soon and replace the taste of fraud with the taste of delicious 18th century narrative innovation.
most treasured book in your collection
I really treasure the various half-remembered children’s books I’ve been able to hunt down online. I spent years ransacking my parents’ attic for The Little Monster’s Bedtime Book by Mercer Mayer, because I remembered tiny creatures hidden in the illustrations saying, “We’re rock cooties. Count us!*” Then the internet made it possible to order an out of print copy.
I also hunted down Jack Prelutsky’s Nightmares, which I’d listened to only once on a borrowed audiotape. My parents had given me permission to spend the night in a tent in our backyard, and listening to this tape outside, in the dark, gave me such nightmares I erased the book’s title from my memory. Turns out I was right to be terrified. Sample stanza: “He cracks their bones and snaps their backs/and squeezes out their lungs,/he chews their thumbs like candy snacks/and pulls apart their tongues.”
* There are nine.
book you borrowed and never returned
My mother is a librarian: I always return my books. But I got into a ridiculous argument with a friend once over a copy of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I was moving away and calling in the books I’d lent. Our phone plans made it cheaper to send text messages than call, so we traded a series of increasingly ridiculous texts. There are only so many polite, mature ways to write: “You have my book,” “No I don’t,” “You have my book,” “No I don’t.” By the end of it I was questioning the whole friendship; how had I once associated with a bald-faced liar who was now trying to steal a book that I loved? Then finally he typed, “oh! thought bel canto was CD. gave yr CDs back weeks ago. book right here will bring it.” Which made me feel like a moron incapable of speaking on a phone and resolving basic interpersonal conflicts via actual words.
strangest book you’ve ever read
Possibly The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot, written in 1584. Sample chapter title: “Certeine popish and magicall cures, for them that are bewitched in their privities.”
collected stories of
Flannery O’Connor. No question.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
Hayden’s Ferry Review. I used to be an editor there, so I’m completely biased, but it’s a great journal. There’s a consistently interesting blog, too.
best thing you’ve read online recently
Forrest Anderson’s wonderful short story “Hey Bubba” in Blackbird. It’s heartbreaking. Go read it.
recommended reading list:
Smörgåsbord Short Story Collections
There are a lot of story collections I enjoy while I’m in the midst of reading them, but then look back on later and find the stories have blurred together in my mind. I have an especial love for collections that offer up a lot of distinct pleasures, whether the author is consciously working with different subjects and styles, or just producing a selection of really kick-ass stories.
- The Hotel Eden by Ron Carlson
- Equal Love by Peter Ho Davies
- Here We Are in Paradise by Tony Earley
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- The Good Life by Erin McGraw
- Permanent Visitors by Kevin Moffett
- The Train to Lo Wu by Jess Row
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (I know, it’s a novel, and I know, everybody already knows it’s great. But it’s the book that taught me what a short story is, so I can’t let it go unmentioned.)