what are you reading now
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, and it’s brilliant. The premise is awesomely, wonderfully strange, and the prose is faultless, so crisp and so rich at the same time.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
Fathers and Sons by Turgenev.
last book to bring you to tears
I definitely welled up a few times while reading Little Dorrit this spring. The part where Little Dorrit tells Maggy the story of the tiny woman who keeps a secret shadow – a hopeless love – is the sort of moment that earns Dickens the opprobrium of hard ass academics, but it gets me in the gut.
favorite neglected book by a celebrated writer
My sense is that a lot of people find Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers over-the-top. It’s a gory little yarn about a married couple on vacation in Venice who fall into the company of a pair of malevolent charmers. (Probably all you need to know is that Christopher Walken plays the male charmer in Paul Schrader’s film adaptation, and he brings all of his considerable powers of weirdness to bear on the part.) To me, the book has that combination of the profoundly eccentric and the totally awful that makes Grimm's Fairy Tales so undeniable even now, however many years after they were written.
most treasured book in your collection
My favorite book is the copy of an anthology I co-edited that I've been obsessively trying to get all the contributing writers to sign.
If there was a fire, I would, of course, rush the family out before I worried about any of our possessions. Which is why I have drilled our three cats in an elaborate evacuation procedure for the book. (It’s pretty cute.)
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
I can’t recall having done this, but recently, I moved my Baseball Encyclopedia off the coffee table, where it had been living for three months, and I’m pretty sure that impressed my wife.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
I’m a One Story devotee. The combination of the back-pocket format and the consistent high quality of the work is tough to top.
most anticipated upcoming release
The new novel by my old classmate Jessica Shattuck, Perfect Life. Her first novel, The Hazards of Good Breeding, was a favorite.
recommended reading list:
Ten Stories That Are Ready For Their Close-Up
In the Bedroom (from Dubus’s “Killings”) and Brokeback Mountain (from the Annie Proulx story) are great examples of why, in general, most short stories probably make more sense as subjects of film adaptation than most novels. I’m not sure that the reason for this is all that complex. Turning a novel into a film usually requires a screenwriter to do lots of paring down, whereas a short story adaptation usually asks for rounding out. Neither thing can be easy, but I feel like the former needs a ruthless attitude that’s especially rare.
Anyway, here are ten short stories that have a sort of wonderful “roominess” – full, terrific characterizations, and narratives extended enough to bear the weight of elaboration – that makes them ripe for the motion pictures! (Come to think of it, for the same reasons, all these stories could be enlarged into novels…)
- “Death Defier” by Tom Bissell
- “The Man Who Knew Dylan” by William Gay
- “Flower Garden” by Shirley Jackson
- “Aerogrammes” by Tania James
- “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link
- “Intervention” by Jill McCorkle
- “Gators” by Mark Poirier
- “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” by George Saunders
- “Batting Against Castro” by Jim Shepard
- “Blue Yodel” by Scott Snyder