Clifford Garstang

Clifford Garstang’s short story collection, In an Uncharted Country, will be published in September 2009 by Press 53 and is now available for pre-order at http://CliffordGarstang.com and www.Press53.com. His stories have appeared in Cream City Review, Wisconsin Review, Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. A former international lawyer specializing in Asia, he has an MA in English from Indiana University and an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

what are you reading now

The New Valley by Josh Weil, published earlier this year. It’s unique—a collection of three novellas set in Southwest Virginia—and disturbing, which is about all I can ask of fiction. Josh is a friend from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and we’re doing a joint reading at the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia, in September.

Because I usually have both a fiction and a non-fiction book going at the same time, I’m also reading Jack Kornfield’s After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. It’s about the Buddhist spiritual path and is a sequel to his A Path With Heart, which I recently finished.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

There are several, I’m sorry to say, but the one classic I wish I could say that I’ve read is Remembrance of Things Past. Not sure when that’s going to happen, but it’s on my shelf, waiting.

last book to bring you to tears

That doesn’t happen very often, but I recently re-read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and that book is a killer. And it doesn’t help that I’ve heard O’Brien read from it and he gets emotional in the reading, so how can I not do the same?

book you borrowed and never returned

Who, me?

if you could write yourself into any book or story

I’ve always been interested in reincarnation, so maybe that would be The Sea of Fertility, the amazing tetralogy by Yukio Mishima, which follows a single “character” through successive lives.

best book-to-film adaptation

I don’t see a lot of films, but when I see an adaptation I’m often disturbed by what’s been left out, although I know the best books are much bigger in scope than a typical film. So I think Brokeback Mountain would be my choice here since it was based on a story rather than a novel, and I thought did an excellent job of capturing the whole work, even improving on the story in some ways.

favorite neglected book by a celebrated writer

I don’t think my reading has had the depth to do justice to this question, but Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion is an amazing book, and I think most people only know One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

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

This is maybe not quite what you mean, but for a while I had a couple of very nice books about Angkor Wat on my coffee table and wouldn’t have minded if someone had asked me about my trip there.

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

Pushcart. I like both of the other anthologies, too, but I use the Pushcart Prize volume each year to update my rankings of literary magazines (which I post on my blog in early December), and for that purpose I like their somewhat more democratic approach.

collected stories of

Grace Paley. But really, there are so many short story writers I admire and whose collected stories I either own or would like to own: Russell Banks, Richard Yates, William Trevor, Flannery O’Connor. It’s a very long list.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Ploughshares. And you didn’t ask for a reason, but I’d choose Ploughshares because it has more Pushcart Prize winners and Special Mentions than any other magazine this decade. By far.

most anticipated upcoming release

I’ve heard very good things about Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply, which is coming out later this month, but I know that both John Casey and Tim O’Brien have new books that they’ve been working on for some time and I’m looking forward to seeing both of those.

recommended reading list:

Chinese Novels in Translation

(Because I’ve spent so much time in Asia, I’m drawn to work set anywhere in the region, and Chinese literature offers a treasure of new settings and ideas.)

- Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

- Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

- The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan

- To Live by Yu Hua

- Chronicle of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua

- Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

- Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong

- Rice by Su Tong

- Farewell My Concubine by Lilian Lee

- Half of Man is Woman by Zhang Xianliang


  1. Hi Cliff, Hi Ravi,

    Consider "Out" by Natsuo Kirino. It won Japan's top mystery prize. The characterization and peek at life in suburbia, factory women and criminals is fascinating.