Kevin Sampsell has run Future Tense Books, a micropress in Portland, Oregon since 1990 (latest release: Put Your Head In My Lap by Claudia Smith). He has worked at Powell's City of Books, the largest bookstore in the country, since 1997. He has written book reviews and essays for Associated Press. His short fiction has appeared widely and is collected in the books, Beautiful Blemish and Creamy Bullets. His memoir, A Common Pornography, is due out in January 2010.
what are you reading now
I usually juggle two or three books at a time. Right now, it's The Impostor's Daughter, a graphic memoir by Laurie Sandell, Scary, No Scary, a poetry collection by Zachary Schomburg, and More of This World or Maybe Another, a debut story collection by Barb Johnson.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
Kind of a forgotten classic maybe, but I have Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell in my to-read stack. I read a bunch of stories by him a few years ago and have always meant to go back.
most treasured book in your collection
My favorite book ever is Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz and I have a signed hardcover of the Knopf edition, which I think is hard to come by. I'm lucky to count Gary as a friend as well as an author I've published on my press.
book you borrowed and never returned
Um, if you mean "borrowed" as in stolen, I borrowed a copy of the 1990 Poet's Market from a Spokane bookstore because it was expensive and I was a young starving poet wannabe looking to get published. I highlighted about forty places to send my stuff to (back in the days when you ONLY mailed submissions). I think I did okay with it. Landed some poems in about ten places.
favorite book from childhood
I don't remember having many books around at all when I was a kid. I don't remember my parents reading to me at all and, probably because of that, I definitely wasn't interested in reading when I was young. I do have an odd memory of joining some sci-fi book club where you order ten books for a dollar or something like that. I liked the cover art on those Dune books but never even opened them. Around the time I was in 8th grade, I do remember reading Brian's Song for some reason. I read it very quickly and it made me cry.
secret crush on a writer or literary character
It's not too secret--Miriam Toews knows I have a big crush on her, thanks to her novel, A Complicated Kindness (and its equally crush-worthy main character, Nomi Nickel). My real-life mega-crush is Frayn Masters!
last reading you attended
I go to readings all the time. Part of my job is to host readings at the store. I just introduced Jonathan Lethem. The last non-Powell's reading I went to was at Wordstock, the big lit festival here. I saw Blake Nelson, who wowed a crowd of teens.
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
I think it's fun to have weird reference books around for people to look at. Back when I actually had a coffee table, I think I had this The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers on it. Maybe not to impress someone, but maybe to unsettle them. Hahaha.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
Probably NOON, which only comes out once a year but is consistently daring and interesting. I also really enjoy Keyhole and McSweeney's.
best thing you’ve read online recently
I regularly read HTMLGIANT, which is a great literary/culture blog. As far as fiction goes, I really liked Brandi Wells's controversial "Instructional" and "What Happened" by Elizabeth Ellen.
most anticipated upcoming release
I'm lucky that I get review copies of books at Powell's, so I'm always reading books that aren't even out yet. The other day I opened an unassuming package that had a copy of Sam Lipsyte's The Ask in it and I audibly said, "Oh my God" in a shocked voice. I'm so excited to read that.
recommended reading list:
Because I was working on my memoir so much the past several months and I hadn't really read that many, I started reading more of them, just to see if I was doing it right and to see what worked and didn't work. These are my favorite ones:
- Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett
- Stop-Time by Frank Conroy
- Rock On by Dan Kennedy
- Boy with Loaded Gun by Lewis Nordan
- The Film Club by David Gilmour
- Are You There, God? It's Me. Kevin. by Kevin Keck
- The Sky Isn't Visible From Here by Felicia Sullivan
- Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn