Anne Germanacos

Born in San Francisco, Anne Germanacos has lived in Greece for thirty-five years. Her work has been published in over sixty literary journals. Her first book, a collection of short stories, was published by BOA Editions in October 2010. For more info: www.annegermanacos.com.

what are you reading now

The Penguin Freud Reader
Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
Judt, The Memory Chalet
Smith, Just Kids

An enticing combination!

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Tristes Tropiques

last book you finished in a single sitting

Malouf's Ransom

book you borrowed and never returned (not really, but it could have been)

Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress

if you could write yourself into any short story

something by Amy Bloom (she’s kind and generous to her characters)

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone (and to look at—it’s gorgeous and fascinating!)

Abstract Comics by Andre Molotiu

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

AGNI for the beautiful covers as well as what's between them.

most anticipated upcoming release

Under the Sun: The Letter of Bruce Chatwin

recommended reading list:

Books for a Self-Critical Jew

- I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti

- The Accidental Empire by Gershom Gorenberg

- Sleeping on a Wire and The Yellow Wind by David Grossman

- Dancing Arabs and Let It Be Morning by Sayed Kashua

- The Iron Cage by Rashid Khalidi

- Palestine Inside Out by Saree Makdisi

- Once Upon a Country by Sari Nusseibeh

- A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

- The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe

- Palestine by Joe Sacco

- Palestinian Walks and Strangers in the House by Raja Shehadeh

- The Iron Wall by Avi Shlaim

- Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar


Paula Bomer

Paula Bomer is the author of Baby and Other Stories (Word Riot Press, December 2010) and the co-publisher at Artistically Declined Press, where she also serves as the supervising editor at Sententia, a Literary Journal. Find out more about her and her work at www.paulabomer.com.

what are you reading now

I'm reading The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Middlemarch by George Eliot and Moby Dick by Herman Melville

last book you finished in a single sitting

He is Talking to the Fat Lady, a chapbook by xTx . Prior to that, I was reading the excellent Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky. I didn't read it in one sitting, but I read it quite quickly.

book you borrowed and never returned

I can't remember - this may have happened when I was younger. I no longer borrow books, although I give away, rather than lend, many books. I will say the last book someone didn't return to me that I really cared about was a signed copy of a first edition of White Jazz by James Ellroy. I'm still mad at the man who didn't return it. This happened 15 years ago.

favorite book from childhood

Hmm. So many! I think Pickles the Firecat meant so much to me. I was a cat fanatic (still am) and he was so misunderstood because he was in the wrong place. And when he found the right place to be, and the right thing to do - be a firecat - he became happy. It made me think that I too could find the right place to be and do, and that I too could stop being so misunderstood. When my oldest boy was little, I tried reading him The Giving Tree and I started to weep so badly I couldn't finish reading it. I'm never picking that one up again. I think I'd die from grief.

strangest dream involving a book, writer, or literary character

Hm. Nothing is coming to me. Sorry. I do often have sexual dreams about professional tennis players that I've written about at my tennis blog, Must Watch Tennis All The Time.

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

Again, I can't think of anything, really. I do try to hide some books from my religious cleaning lady, like Fuck You Too by Glen E. Friedman and Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

The Paris Review. I guess. I buy lots and lots of journal. All sorts.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Roxane Gay's blog comes to mind. I love reading her blog and anything else by her. But there are so many good things online. The essay "The Love of My Life" by Cheryl Strayed is available online. It really really stays with you. It's unbelievable. I read Storyglossia, Night Train, Pank, Dogzplot. Some writers I discovered online are Elizabeth Ellen, Scott Wrobel, Kevin Wilson, T.J. Forrester, Barry Graham... anyway, I could go on here forever.

most anticipated upcoming release

PJ Harvey's new record. Also, at the small press I run with Ryan W. Bradley, we are releasing the novel You Can Make Him Like You by Ben Tanzer and Ayiti, a collection, by Roxane Gay. I'm super thrilled to be publishing these two books.

recommended reading list:

Books with Suicide and/or Mental Breakdowns

- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

- The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

- Darkness Visible by William Styron

- The Awakening by Kate Chopin

- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

- Last Things by Jenny Offill

- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

- A Sorrow Beyond Dreams by Peter Handke

- The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut

- Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates


Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses is the author of a forthcoming novella, The Last Repatriate (Flatmancrooked), and two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics (PANK, 2010) and We Will Take What We Can Get (Publishing Genius, 2009). His short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, Witness, American Short Fiction, The Literary Review, and others. He writes and edits for The Good Men Project Magazine.

what are you reading now

Korean myths, legends, and folklore, and Great House, by Nicole Krauss.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I've been meaning to finish War and Peace for ages now. I am on Book Fifteen, which is the last book before the epilogues, but have been on Book Fifteen for a couple of years. I don't know why I don't finish it. I loved what I read. Maybe this will make me.

last book you finished in a single sitting

Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky

book you borrowed and never returned

Usually this happens to me.

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

I hate writing in books. I hate cracking the spine. I will only occasionally allow myself to dog-ear a page.

strangest dream involving a book, writer, or literary character

I'm not sure I've ever had one, not counting writers I know.

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

The Blue Fairy Book

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I tried for a while to answer this, but there are too many.

best thing you’ve read online recently

The first that came into my head was Edan Lepucki's story, "Salt Lick," in Flatmancrooked.

most anticipated upcoming release

Alex Chee's The Queen of the Night

recommended reading list:

5 Recent Books with Good Long Titles

- Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

- Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch

- What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg

- St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

- All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

Unfortunately, this is off the top of my head, and I have a bad memory. I'm sure there are more.


Tina May Hall

Tina May Hall writes and teaches in upstate New York. Her collection of stories, The Physics of Imaginary Objects, won the 2010 Drue Heinz Prize for literature and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in September.

what are you reading now

How They Were Found by Matt Bell, The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson, Judith Thurman’s biography of Isak Dinesen, instructions on how to cook a turkey without poisoning anyone.

last book you finished in a single sitting

Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women. It really is short. And very lovely.

book you borrowed and never returned

I adhere to Polonius’s advice and never borrow nor lend books. Though I buy a lot of books as gifts. I am a dog-earer, a spine-cracker, a snacker-while-reading, so I don’t dare borrow anything. I also try to be familiar, but by no means vulgar.

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

All of my books are scribbled-in and post-it-noted. The one most bedecked is probably Dracula, simply because I teach it a lot and I find it inspires confidence in the class if a sheaf of multicolored notes protrudes from the book. I used to keep all of my lecture notes and discussion prompts and historical asides written into the back pages of the book and when they got too long for that, written onto notecards that perpetually drifted out of the book and ended up all over campus. Then I remembered I had a computer.

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

I often load my coffee table with self-help books (What Would Keith Richards Do?: Daily Affirmations from a Rock and Roll Survivor), cleaning manuals (The Pixie Solution: Tips on Relationships, Sex, Death, and Keeping the House Clean), and cookbooks (The Bacon Cookbook: More than 150 Recipes from Around the World for Everyone's Favorite Food) just so people think that at least I am making an effort. Actually, I don’t have a coffee table, but if I did, this would be my strategy.

best thing you’ve read online recently

SYNAPSE: The Weblog of Catherine Bloom by Alex Rose. I’ve been sure for a while that hypertext is dead, but this is reviving my youthful fancies.

most anticipated upcoming release

I just ordered My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer, boasting an amazing line-up of writers. I also can’t wait to read Karen Russell’s first novel Swamplandia! She is doing interesting stuff with absurdity and fable.

recommended reading list:

Books Featuring Sex Scenes between Cyborgs and Humans

- He, She, and It by Marge Piercy—romance meets circuitry and virtual space. Strangely affecting.

- Looking for the Mahdi by N. Lee Wood—a female journalist passes as a man and cozies up to her android companion in the Middle East. What more could you ask for?

- The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson—this is a stretch, but one of the characters does disappear into an organic/electronic tube-womb-tunnel thing that keeps him in state of orgasmic bliss for ten years, so I’m claiming it. Plus, it is one of the most inventive coming-of-age stories out there.

- Neuromancer by William Gibson—of course.


Patrick Somerville

Patrick Somerville’s third book, The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, comes out this November. He lives with his wife in Chicago and teaches creative writing at Northwestern University.

what are you reading now

I’m reading Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. One more step in my lifelong goal of reading every funny thing every British writer ever wrote.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I keep trying to read D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and for some reason, every time I start I get interrupted with having to read this or that other book or losing the book or something else going wrong. What’s strange is that I love the first 50 pages and always have every intention of finishing it whenever I think about it or see it sitting on my bookshelf. I feel like fate is against me. This has been going on for 6 years.

most treasured book in your collection

I object to the idea of treasuring a particular book, maybe because I so often destroy them as I read or lose them or give them away to people or spill juice on them. Or because whatever is in a book gets into you, and that’s the thing that should be treasured. I don’t really understand book collecting, which seems to emphasize the wrong thing completely? But this is just me being difficult. Okay. If I still had it, I think my copy of Dragons of Spring Dawning, which I got autographed by BOTH Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman when I went to GenCon at age 13, would have been it. But I lost it. See? So I will instead go with my old Penguin edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays, which is unfortunately not signed, but which gives me a warm feeling whenever I look at it. There are only a couple books you’ll find that actually change who you are and permanently alter your consciousness. That book did that to me when I was in my early 20s and completely lost. My copy of that book is worth no money and the binding is bent to shit.

if you could write yourself into any short story

I would like to be one of the old-timers hanging out on the pier alongside Farte, Jr. in Barry Hannah’s “Water Liars.”

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

Does my desk in high school count? Because I got The Tropic of Cancer when I was a senior and kept placing it prominently on my desk before the start of every class, hoping it would stir up some kind of censorship controversy with one of my teachers or at the very least get a girl interested. Nobody cared.

collected stories of

Bruce Jay Friedman.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

One Story.

best thing you’ve read online recently

I think Bob McGinn’s recent “Scouting Report on the Vikings” was, as is always the case with McGinn’s Packers coverage, excellent.

most anticipated upcoming release

Hannah Pittard’s The Fates Will Find Their Way, which comes out in January. I know Hannah and think she’s an incredibly talented writer, and there’s something about that book, something about the combination of a terrible event with this unexpectedly bright and fantastical storyline that feels inventive, warm, and unlike anything I’ve really read before. Hannah’s going to be a star.

recommended reading list:

Stories Containing the Most Outrageously Speculative yet Weirdly Exciting Sex Scenes, From Most Outrageous to Least

- Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

- Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

- The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

- Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A. N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

- The Miller’s Tale by Geoffry Chaucer


Robert Lopez

Robert Lopez is the author of two novels, Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River, and a story collection, Asunder. He has taught and/or teaches at The New School, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, William Paterson University.

what are you reading now

How They Were Found, Matt Bell

From Old Notebooks, Evan Lavender-Smith

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes

last book you finished in a single sitting

Not sure I've ever done this, but if I have it would've been Reader's Block by David Markson.

book you borrowed and never returned

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal


best thing you’ve read online recently

"There Is This Woman Who Gets Me What I Need" by Andrew Richmond in The Collagist.

most anticipated upcoming release

The selected and new Barry Hannah.

recommended reading list:

Books I Might Teach Next Semester

- Kissed By by Alexandra Chasin

- Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler

- Molloy by Samuel Beckett

- Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball

- Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus

- Michael Martone by Michael Martone

- In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William Gass

- Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison


Ben Spivey

Ben Spivey is the author of a novel, Flowing in the Gossamer Fold (Blue Square Press 2010) and a chapbook The Body Between The Glass (forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press). His work has been published in Abjective and Everyday Genius. He lives in Atlanta and blogs at yourbrainsblackbox.blogspot.com.

what are you reading now

Right now I am reading Child of God by Cormac McCarthy and How They Were Found by Matt Bell.

classic you’ve been meaning to read


last book you finished in a single sitting

I don't usually read books in a single sitting, maybe ten years ago I finished a D&D book in a single sitting.

book you borrowed and never returned

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

strangest book you’ve ever read

In Candyland It's Cool to Feed on Your Friends by James Chapman

if you could take a cross-country road trip with any literary character

Clamence from The Fall by Albert Camus or Marvin K. Mooney from The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney, a novel by Christopher Higgs.

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

Infinite Jest

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Annalemma is amazing.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Phone by Darby Larson” by Darby Larson in the April 2010 issue of The Collagist

most anticipated upcoming release

There Is No Year by Blake Butler and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

recommended reading list:

Books That I’ve Removed from My Bookshelf and Stacked in Piles Because I Associate Them in Some Way, or I Like Looking at Their Spines, Etc.

Stacked Pile #1:

- When All Our Days Are Numbered by Sasha Fletcher

- EVER by Blake Butler

- The Fall by Albert Camus

- Log Of The S.S. the Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford

- The Stranger by Albert Camus

- Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca

Stacked Pile #2:

- Prose. Poems. A Novel. By Jamie Iredell

- Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor

- Fugue State by Brian Evenson

- Scary, No Scary by Zachary Schomburg

- Good, Brother by Peter Markus

- The Failure Six by Shane Jones

- Motorman by David Ohle

- Ugly Man: Stories by Dennis Cooper

- Wolf Parts by Matt Bell

Stacked Pile #3:

- Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

- Firework by Eugene Marten

- Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

- Stories In The Worst Way by Gary Lutz

- Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

- Burning Chrome by William Gibson

- The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball

- The Singing Fish by Peter Markus

- South Of The Border, West Of The Sun by Haruki Murakami

- Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler


Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter is a writer living in Chicago. She co-hosts the Quickies! reading series, and her collection of stories, Daddy's, is out now from featherproof books. Find her at lindsayhunter.com.

what are you reading now

Right now I'm reading Hellfire, a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis. Been getting more obsessed with the Killer lately. It heals me to learn about the depths of freak in other artists.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

There are so many! I feel like I read all the time but never get anywhere. I've never read any J.M. Coetzee, for instance. Or Thomas Pynchon. And I'd love to read The Brothers Karamazov. Fucking The Count of Monte Cristo even! I'm truly a sham of a writer.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I think it was Steve Martin's autobio of his comedy life, Born Standing Up. If I saw him on the street I'd probably tongue his ear or something. I think I also read Mary Robison's Why Did I Ever in one sitting - dammit that book is good.

book you borrowed and never returned

My friend just let me borrow Amy Hempel's Reasons to Live, and then she moved to New Orleans. Oops. I've also been lent Slash's biography and Y: The Last Man, Book One, and I have no idea when I'll get to those. Never lend me anything, future friends.

if you could take a cross-country road trip with any literary character

I'd love to be in the car with Roberta/Clyde and her father in Cruddy. I'd likely be filled with a resigned kind of dull terror and sitting in a cooling puddle of urine.

most treasured book in your collection

My husband, for my 30th birthday, got me a first edition copy of The Stones of Summer. It's on the shelf above my laptop so I can look up at it and remember to take risks, try to build something in my writing, and to do it for no other reason but for the pleasure of the words. Of getting the story out and just right, even if that means it's a fucking mess. But a good mess.

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

Oh man. I don't have a coffee table, but I do remember an advisor asking me who I was inspired by, and I'd just read The Sound and the Fury, so I said I liked Faulkner, and the advisor said "Now, did you just say that to impress me?" and I was stunned, and I think probably yeah, I said Faulkner because it sounded better than saying V.C. Andrews or something.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Probably the Ninth Letter. Or Hobart. Or Artifice. There are too many.

best thing you’ve read online recently

I keep telling people about this story in the Somnambulist Quarterly by Athena Nilssen. It's a year old but it's here and it's incredible. "A Flower for You."

most anticipated upcoming release

Patrick Somerville's new collection, The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, from featherproof books. It's gonna rule. And earlier this summer I had the privilege of hearing Blake Butler read from his forthcoming book, There Is No Year, and I cannot wait to read the whole thing.

recommended reading list:

Books About Murder For People Who Want to Vomit When Watching NCIS or CSI or Bones, and Hey, These Are All Written by Women

- The Secret History by Donna Tartt

- In the Woods by Tana French

- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

- The End of Alice by A.M. Homes

- Crime Album Stories: Paris 1886-1902 by Eugenia Parry


Rachel B. Glaser

Rachel B. Glaser was born in New Jersey. She lives in Western Massachusetts. Her first book, Pee On Water, is available through Publishing Genius Press.

what are you reading now

Rereading Honored Guest by Joy Williams

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Mrs. Dalloway

last book to induce gut-busting laughter

James Purdy's "I Am Elijah Thrush"

book you borrowed and never returned

Flatland (but I still haven't finished it)

favorite book cover design

Maybe Barthelme's Sadness cover, or the original cover (pink pattern that makes it look like a cookbook?) of Jane Bowles's Collected Works

best thing you’ve read online recently

I read this good Christopher Cheney poem today: "Insomnia"

most anticipated upcoming release

Adam Levin's short story collection coming out in 2011 and Emily Petit's Goat in the Snow (first book of poems) also coming out in 2011

recommended reading list:

Books with Wild or Unusual Women Characters Written by Women

- Two Serious Ladies (or the Collected Works) by Jane Bowles

- Honored Guest by Joy Williams

- Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz

- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

- Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill


Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton it an optician, teacher, and writer living in Chicago. She is the co-host and co-founder of the QUICKIES! reading series and she blogs about Inspirational Sports Movies at inspirationalsportsmovies.blogspot.com.

what are you reading now

I read Newsweek on the bus. I have a subscription to The New Yorker that I got as my reward for renewing my NPR membership, but those issues are stacking up without being opened. I'm currently carrying The Mezzanine around and, when I get a spare second, I read a page or two of that.

classic you’ve been meaning to read


last book you finished in a single sitting

Jesus' Son. It was a long time ago, but I remember not being able to put the book down and then, I was done and it was four or five in the morning and I had to leave for work at nine, so with a few hours to kill I just started reading it again.

most treasured book in your collection

I guess the Collected Poems of Robert Service. I don't remember the last time I've opened the cover and I'm not sure that I'd even still like the poetry. But it reminds me of when I was first, "oooh, words!"

book you borrowed and never returned

The Science of Superheroes because I didn't finish it and I want to and now I don't know where it is. Maybe I did return it? I stole Aesop's Fables from my elementary school library in the 6th grade, but I also don't know where that is. When I was in high school I told the library that I lost my copy of the Collected Poems of Robert Service and I paid a $12 fine, but I hadn't lost it, I just really liked the book and the cool green cover. So, technically, I never "returned" that book to the library. And I do know where that book is because I'm looking at it right now.

last reading you attended

We had my book release for the chapbook the other night and I had the mad pleasure of watching/listening to Caroline Picard, Natalie Edwards, and Jill Summers.

favorite book from childhood

The Monster at the End of This Book. It's amazing. It tells you what's up in the title. The whole book is pretty much setting you up for the end, the most obvious foreshadowing ever. And still, every time, it's a huge surprise that there is, indeed, a monster at the end of the book!

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

I think my huge stack of New Yorkers looks pretty pretentious and I assume a visitor would think I put them there to impress. Really, I worry more about the records and CDs that are on display.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I know this isn't the answer to the question you're asking, but I think it would be great to buy a massive encyclopedia and receive a random volume once a week. What about that Time/Life series about aliens and home improvements?

This is also my way of cheating and not choosing just one.

best thing you’ve read online recently


most anticipated upcoming release

Daddy's by Lindsay Hunter and The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville

recommended reading list:

Book/Stories/Poem/Song That I’ve Read/Listened to Several Times, But Am Still Surprised by the Ending

- The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin

- “The Dress” by Dylan Thomas

- “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

- “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O'Connor

- “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service

- “A Good Idea” by Sugar


Jason Jordan

Jason Jordan holds an MFA from Chatham University. His forthcoming books are Cloud and Other Stories (Six Gallery Press, 2010) and Powering the Devil's Circus: Redux (Six Gallery Press, 2010). His prose has appeared online and in print in over forty literary magazines, including Hobart, Keyhole, Monkeybicycle, Night Train, PANK, Pear Noir!, and Storyglossia. Additionally, he's Editor-in-Chief of decomP, accessible at www.decompmagazine.com. You can visit him at his blog at poweringthedevilscircus.blogspot.com.

what are you reading now

Right now I’m reading The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing, a 350-page anthology, which should keep me occupied for a while.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I haven’t read much of the famous Russians: Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy. I’d like to, but at the same time, I prefer reading contemporary work.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I think it was Kristina Born’s One Hour of Television. It was pretty good.

book you borrowed and never returned

I never borrow books, because if I end up liking a book, I want to own it and add it to my library, so I always end up buying whatever I read. It’s not the most economical practice, but it usually works out all right.

strangest book you’ve ever read

My gut reaction is Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, because I think its use of strangeness and experimentation is very effective. Plus, I enjoyed it immensely.

if you could take a cross-country road trip with any literary character

Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Yeah, he’s a real guy, but he’s also a character in every sense of the word. Him and I have the Louisville connection, so we could talk about that during the drive. I’d be lucky to make it back alive.

most treasured book in your collection

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. This is the book that started it all for me, the book that showed me that reading can be entertaining. Because I went to a Christian high school, we never read anything on the typical high school reading list due to lewd content, so I wasn’t interested in books at all until later. I’ve been meaning to buy a nice copy of it for years, as mine is a small, tattered paperback, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

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

I don’t leave books out. I’m OCD about organization, so my books are either in my shelves (ones I’ve read and like enough to keep), or on my dresser (ones in queue).

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Keyhole, because that’s the only magazine I currently subscribe to. Still, there are tons I buy every issue of, but don’t subscribe to: Barrelhouse, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Electric Literature, Hobart, Juked, MonkeyBicycle, PANK, Pear Noir!, etc. It feels like I spend less money by purchasing single issues, because my wallet doesn’t take a bigger hit at once by subscribing, but I know that’s not true. There are also many that have a sizeable back catalog of which I only own one or two issues but would love to own more: Canteen, New York Tyrant, NOON, Quick Fiction, Unsaid.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Gabe Durham’s “This Doomed Gift Before You” from The Collagist.

most anticipated upcoming release

Lit journals are my favorite things to read, and I’m most looking forward to Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010. I’m glad a press decided to compile a print annual best-of web anthology. For the past two years I’ve been excited to see the selections. I’m hoping something from decomP makes the cut soon.

recommended reading list:

Can't-Miss Collections

- Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme

- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

- The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions by Debra Di Blasi

- Drown by Junot Diaz

- The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel by Amy Hempel

- Drift and Swerve by Samuel Ligon

- A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

- Winter of Different Directions by Steven J. McDermott

- Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir by Joe Meno

- Other Electricities by Ander Monson

- Kentucky Straight by Chris Offutt

- CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

- Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti

- Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich


John Jodzio

John Jodzio is a winner of the Loft-McKnight Fellowship. His stories have appeared in One Story, Barrelhouse, Opium, The Florida Review and various other places in print and online. A collection of his short fiction, If You Lived Here, You’d Already Be Home, was recently published by Replacement Press. He lives in Minneapolis. Find out more at www.johnjodzio.net.

what are you reading now

I've just started two new books in the last few weeks -- There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and then The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni. I did a reading with Peter recently and really loved what he read. Next in my stack is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Still wanting to break open Moby Dick. People keep telling me it's hilarious, so my expectations are set pretty high.

last book to induce gut-busting laughter

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris. I read it for the first time about 15 years ago, but laughter-wise nothing has come close since.

book you borrowed and never returned

I used to bartend weddings at this old mansion and they had this fantastic library that was easily broken into with a credit card and a butter knife. I "checked out" an old copy of Hemingway's The Nick Adams Stories about five years ago that still hasn't made it back.

collected stories of

Amy Hempel.

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

In college there was this girl named Rachel that I liked a lot. Once at a party I heard her talking to one of my friends about Jim Thompson. I invited her to my next party and prominently placed my copy of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson on the milk crates that were serving as my coffee table. Don't think she ever noticed it -- she was way too busy making out with my friend Jason on my couch.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Can I bring back defunct ones? If so, I am going with Gordon Lish's The Quarterly. If not, I'll go with either Opium or Barrelhouse.

best thing you’ve read online recently

This story is from last October, but I just discovered it the other day rooting around on Hobart. Kevin Wilson's "My Hand, Dead Tissue Severed at the Wrist."

most anticipated upcoming release

Just ordered a copy of Citrus County by John Brandon. Arkansas was so great and I can't wait to get started on his new one.

recommended reading list:

Short Story Collections that I Lent To Girls Who Were Never Going to Love Me To Try And Make Them Love Me (Read and Unread, Returned and Unreturned)

- Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

- Twenty Grand by Rebecca Curtis

- CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

- Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

- Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler

- Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler

- The Brutal Language of Love by Alicia Erian


Ben Greenman

Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Please Step Back, and the new What He's Poised to Do (Harper Perennial). He invites readers to write letters to fictional characters at Letters With Character.

what are you reading now

Raymond Chandler. Whenever I finish a book or have a book published, I go back and reread Chandler, because it's so good. It's problematic in some ways -- the depiction of race in Farewell, My Lovely, which is what I'm reading now, doesn't really harmonize with the modern brain -- but the language is nearly perfect. At one point Marlowe says "the more I know the fewer cups I break." Great. And at another point he is looking at some fancy piece of modern sculpture, and the guy who owns it says to him, "I picked it up just the other day. Asta Dial's Spirit of Dawn." Marlowe says, "I thought it was Klopstein's Two Warts On a Fanny." I wasn't drinking milk when I read that, but if I had been, I would have spit it all over the page.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Well, my new book, What He's Poised to Do, is a set of linked short stories all about letters and letter-writing, so I tried to read a number of epistolary novels so that I wasn't completely stupid on the topic. Young Werther, of course, and John Berger's From A to X, and John Barth's Letters. The one I have always wanted to read, though, is Richardson's Pamela. I have started it a bunch of times but never gotten more than 200 pages into it before I began skipping around, and it's about six hundred. It is sleazy and claustrophobic and beautifully moralistic, and I want to finish it off.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I found Tom Robbins's Still Life with Woodpecker in the street. Someone had thrown it out. I remember reading it when I was fourteen or so and loving it, so I sat down and read it straight through. It was a strange experience, because it's dated on its own in a sense -- very much a book about culture and counter-culture and the end of the seventies -- but also dated in my mind. I did recover one of my favorite one-liners, which is that sharks are the criminals of the sea, and dolphins are the outlaws.

most treasured book in your collection

In my whole collection? So many for so many different reasons. I have a beat-up paperback of Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones. I have galleys of books by friends that I treasure because I treasure the people. I have a first-edition Lolita whose value I am scared to research. I have the Grove Beckett box. My son made a book about sea life in elementary school. That book is great. I am finding this question impossible to answer.

book you borrowed and never returned

Oh, I know the answer to this one! A few years after college, I ran into a girl who was in my class in high school. She gave me her copy of Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe. I didn't return it. In fact, she made a point of contacting me and asking for it, and I think it just slipped my mind. At this point, the crime is nearly twenty years old.

strangest book you’ve ever read

Pierre Guyotat's Eden Eden Eden, from 1971, which is set in Algeria and in theory about civil war but really an inquiry into all matters of atrocity and obscenity -- violence, sex, the limits of language. It's a trip, and not a pleasant one. It was published, but then banned for sale to readers under 18, and a number of European intellectuals, including Italo Calvino, Jean Genet, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Boulez, and Maurice Blanchot tried unsuccessfully to get the ban lifted.

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

Ha ha. I try to go in reverse. I have so many friends who are writers or who work in publishing that I try to stay fairly honest about what I'm reading, which is to say that I don't clean up when they're coming over, which means that they see that I am usually reading both "good" books and collections of old comic strips and record guides and all other kinds of nonsense.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Probably it would be the New York Review of Books. I like the feel of it. I was at dinner with some people recently and they were saying that they love the experience of it, and I agreed, but I didn't want to jump in and say "I agree" like some kind of idiot. But I agree.

best thing you’ve read online recently

There is one article I reread and reread and reread, because it's a supremely wonderful piece of bad/weird writing. It's called "Ride the Sales Tornado: Become the Wizard of 'Awes'," and it's from Furniture World magazine.

most anticipated upcoming release

I am eager to read Keith Richards' memoir, even though I have modest expectations for it.

recommended reading list:

Epistolary or at Least Pseudo-Epistolary Fiction I Have Read and Liked

- Letters by John Barth

- Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky

- Ada by Vladimir Nabokov

- The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

- Dracula by Bram Stoker

- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

- Black Box by Amos Oz

- We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

- Age of Iron by J.M. Coetzee

- Summertime by J.M. Coetzee [interviews, not letters, but brilliant]


Chad Simpson

Chad Simpson is the author of the chapbook Phantoms, available now from Origami Zoo Press. He lives in Monmouth, Illinois, and teaches fiction writing at Knox College. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in several magazines, including McSweeney’s Quarterly, Barrelhouse, Orion, and The Sun.

what are you reading now

Last night I devoured Matt Bell’s Wolf Parts, and it blew me away. I’ve also been working through two short story collections—American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell and Venus Drive by Sam Lipsyte—and Jean Harvey Baker’s Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. This last one is research for a longish project I’ve just begun working on.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Anna Karenina. And The Brothers Karamazov. I’ve been meaning to read these two books pretty much forever.

last book you finished in a single sitting

Besides that little book by Matt Bell that I mentioned above… I’d say it was probably Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries. I think I’ve read each of the last three or four books by Elliott in a single sitting.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

I don’t know about the “most” challenging, but I’ve read Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String all the way through at least three times—and I’ve taught sections from it a couple times as well—and I still don’t know what all’s going on between those covers. Still, I’ll probably keep picking it up every couple years.

book you borrowed and never returned

John D’Agata’s About a Mountain. I only borrowed it about a month and a half ago, though. I’m pretty sure I’ll return it soon, even though I’d like to keep it next to my bed for the next half year or so.

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

Probably Junot Diaz’s Drown. I keep teaching it in an intro to lit class and seem to always be making marks in it. I also re-read Deb Olin Unferth’s Minor Robberies recently and left behind a lot of scribbles.

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

I don’t think I’ve done this. Maybe it’s because we never have people over.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Tin House.

best thing you’ve read online recently

A Mess of Pork” by Harriette Simpson Arnow. I haven’t actually read the whole thing yet, just the opening, but still, it qualifies.

There was also this: http://firmuhment.tumblr.com/post/397658485. It might be the longest thing I’ve read all the way through online without printing it out. Justin Wolfe’s tumblr, in general, is full of amazing.

most anticipated upcoming release

I’m really excited about Willy Vlautin’s Lean on Pete, which I think was just released in the past few weeks. I wanted to hate his fiction because he’s in a band that plays pretty cool alt-country music, and I mean, isn’t that enough? you have to write, too? In the end, though, Vlautin’s first two novels killed me, and I’ve been anticipating this one ever since.

And another book that just came out: The Book of Right and Wrong by Matt Debenham. I’ve been reading Matt’s killer stories for the past three years, and now there’s a whole book of them out from Ohio State University Press.

Embracing Sadness

Books that you should read while working as a juvenile probation officer during the six or so months before you quit and then go off to grad school for an MFA in fiction.

- Among the Missing by Dan Chaon

- Break it Down by Lydia Davis

- The Esther Stories by Peter Orner

- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

- everything you can get your hands on by Amy Hempel

- everything you can get your hands on by Stuart Dybek

- Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

- everything you can get your hands on by Joy Willliams

- The Point and Other Stories by Charles D’Ambrosio


Darlin' Neal

Darlin’ Neal’s story collection, Rattlesnakes & The Moon (Press 53), was just released this year. She is an assistant professor in the MFA and undergraduate Creative Writing Programs at the University of Central Florida and lives in Orlando and Jensen Beach, Florida, along with Maggie the cat, Brian the human, and Catfish the dog.

what are you reading now

MFA student theses have been keeping me busy. Up next Reality Hunger, which I was supposed to read and discuss with some friends, I’m behind, and then I can’t wait to read fiction all summer long. I don’t really care about reality hunger.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Well, how about that I’m wanting to revisit and read more thoroughly? The Collected Essays and also The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf.

last book to make you laugh out loud

Pasha Malla’s The Withdrawal Method. Read it and marvel at his range.

book you borrowed and never returned

Days by Mary Robison. It’s her early story collection and she was amazing from the start.

most devastating book you’ve ever read

Almost anything by Cormac McCarthy. I love him. Blood Meridian. The Road. No Country for Old Men.

if you could write yourself into any novel or short story

Maybe it would be Mrs. Dalloway so I could go back and take that walk again in London.

collected stories of

Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Edgar Allan Poe, William Trevor, John Updike.

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

Rattlesnakes & The Moon. I know that’s terrible.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Oxford American, it’s by far my favorite mag.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Fictionaut has got some great stuff. Go make your way around if you haven’t already. Everyone.

most anticipated upcoming release

Up From The Blue by Susan Henderson. We’ve critiqued each others’ work and supported each other for years. She’s a beautiful writer and person. I can’t wait to see what she has given us now. Also Kim Chinquee’s new flash collection, Pretty.

recommended reading list:

If You Dig, Then Fill Your Wig With

A few of the fiction writers who have lived in a few of the places I have lived: Mississippi, New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

- Barry Hannah

- Larry Brown

- Frederick Barthelme

- Rosellen Brown

- Steve Yarborough

- Mary Robison

- Denis Johnson

- Joy Williams

- Kevin Canty

- Harry Crews

- Susan Hubbard

- Robley Wilson

- Antonya Nelson

- Robert Boswell

- N. Scott Momaday

- Leslie Marmon Silko

- Cormac McCarthy

- Kevin McIlvoy

- Tim Gautreaux

- William Gay

- Pia Z. Ehrhardt


Evan Lavender-Smith

Evan Lavender-Smith is the author of From Old Notebooks (BlazeVOX, 2010) and Avatar (Six Gallery Press, forthcoming 2010). His fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama and criticism appears in many journals and magazines, including Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Glimmer Train, The Modern Review, No Colony and Post Road. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Noemi Press and the Prose and Drama Editor of Puerto del Sol.

what are you reading now

I am currently reading (an advance review copy!) of The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, trans. Andrew Oakland (Dalkey Archive Press). It's marvelous. I've enjoyed most everything I've read put out by Dalkey in the past few years.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

War and Peace. Russian literature was my minor field of study in college; I believe I read every "major" Russian novel from the 19th century except for W&P. Never been able to muster the courage/stamina (or the French).

last book you finished in a single sitting

Iatrogenic: Their Testimonies by Danielle Pafunda. Twice in a single sitting, actually … we're publishing it at Noemi.

favorite neglected book by a celebrated writer

Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel by Evan S. Connell

most challenging book you’ve ever read

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is probably the most challenging book I've finished. Joyce's Finnegans Wake is the most challenging book I haven't finished, yet I've spent way more time reading the latter than I have the former, which I've read and finished twice.

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

From Old Notebooks by Evan Lavender-Smith

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

As an editor at Puerto del Sol, I don't have to subscribe because I can pretty much steal as many copies as I want. So I can't say that one.

It would be the journal Unsaid, without question.

most anticipated upcoming release

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

recommended reading list:

Books the Pages of Which I Can Still Smell in My Mind's Nose

- V. by Thomas Pynchon

- Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker

- Tranquility by Atilla Bartis

- Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

- Correction by Thomas Bernhard

- A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari

- Travesty by John Hawkes

- Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

- YOU-The City by Fiona Templeton

- The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

- Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline by John Mullarkey

- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

- The Crab Nebula by Eric Chevillard

- Being and Event by Alain Badiou

- You Bright and Risen Angels by William T. Vollmann

- The Mirror in the Well by Micheline Aharonian Marcom

- Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein

- The Trilogy by Samuel Beckett

- The Assignment; or, On the Observing of the Observer of the Observers: A Novella in Twenty-Four Sentences by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

- The Dream Songs by John Berryman


Dawn Raffel

Dawn Raffel’s new collection, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe comes out in March from Dzanc Books. She is also the author of a novel, Carrying the Body, and a previous collection, In the Year of Long Division.

what are you reading now

Jane Eyre, because I am re-reading the classics with a group of writers. Actually, I’m getting annoyed; I’ve never developed much of an affection for classic British lit. Can I also confess to not liking Jane Austen?

classic you’ve been meaning to read

The remaining volumes of Remembrance of Things Past, after Swann’s Way.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I don’t finish anything in a single sitting. I am the world’s slowest reader. If I really like something, I might need to read a single page multiple times before going forward.

book you borrowed and never returned

Petersburg by Andrei Bely

most treasured book in your collection

The “autobiography” my father wrote when he was 16 and that I discovered only after his death.

favorite neglected book by a celebrated writer

I can’t really call Blood Meridian and Suttree neglected, but these two should have gotten the accolades Cormac McCarthy got for his later books. Blood Meridian is a masterpiece. Suttree is sprawling but has some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve ever read, as well as a salacious passage involving melons that made me laugh so hard I thought I’d be ill. Also, The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor. Everyone (rightly) cites her stories but this novella is worth revisiting.

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

Books written by friends when I know they’re coming over. I guess I have to stop that now.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Sorry but I need to pick three: NOON comes out only once a year and Unsaid even less frequently. There’s also The Collagist.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Vernal,” a poem on The Collagist by a poet I hadn’t read before, Henry Kearney, IV.

most anticipated upcoming release

You mean besides my own collection, which took more than seven years and often seemed as if it would never come together? I’m looking forward to reading Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask. I also need to get my hands on Justin Taylor’s new collection, which just came out.

recommended reading list:

Books Worth Reading Three or Four Times

- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (I am a fanatic about this, which surprises people)

- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (a brilliant collection not only about war but also about the act of storytelling and remembering)

- Fairy Tales, any and all (while you’re at it, check out The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim)

- Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley (she gets better with every reading)

- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (this is what power looks like)

- The Half-Inch Himalayas by Agha Shahid Ali (I encountered him when he was selling chapbooks out of his trunk at Bread Loaf; he was eventually published by Norton and died way too young)

- Warrenpoint by Denis Donoghue (a deceptively lean memoir )

- Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen (especially “I Stand Here Ironing”)


Ken Sparling

Ken Sparling’s books are: Book (forthcoming in May from Pedlar Press); Hush up and listen stinky poo butt; For those whom god has blessed with fingers (Pedlar Press); untitled book (Pedlar Press); Dad says he saw you at the mall (Knopf). Contact Ken at kensparling@live.ca.

what are you reading now

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein. I bought it a few months ago, and read the first chapter right away. It seemed silly, so I didn’t read any more. I loved Goldstein’s first book, Lenny Bruce is Dead, so I was disappointed when I read the first chapter of the new book. I wanted to love what Goldstein was writing. I’ve sort of known Jonathan for a long time and I really like him. I wanted to be able to tell him I liked what he’d written. The book sat beside my bed for a long time. Then I put it on one of the bookshelves downstairs. A few weeks ago, when I found out Jonathan was coming to Toronto and I would be seeing him, I went and got the book from the bookshelf and read the second chapter. The second chapter was silly, too, but there was something else going on. It was only silly on the surface. I mean, the stuff that was going on in the book looked like it should be silly; but it didn’t feel silly. Goldstein was sneaking something in, something that was sometimes really funny, sometimes really sad, sometimes a little of both – or a lot of both. It was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Whatever it was he was sneaking in there, it kept me reading, and somewhere along the way, I came to understood that Goldstein's silliness was somehow approaching the poetic. It's very beautiful, what Goldstein does. Don’t ask me how he does it, but there were places where I felt like laughing and crying at the same time.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Ulysses and some of those other fat ones – Gravity's Rainbow, that sort of thing – not because I think I'll enjoy the experience, or it will be an inherently good thing for me, or anything like that, but because I want to know just what the hell is inside those giant books that make people talk about them all the time.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I don’t think I’d ever be able to do this. The books that pull me into their story, and are at the same time well enough written to keep me reading, eventually become exhausting for me and I can only go on reading them for so long before I feel like I’m sinking into a place I don’t want to be. And the books that have really lifted me up and inspired and surprised and excited me – usually these are books that don’t rely on story, but on language – are ones I have had to constantly put down and stop reading to catch my breath and sit and quietly be amazed. I have to stop reading these books not so much so that I can contemplate what I’ve just read or anything like that; I don’t contemplate anything at all in those moments, it's more like I’m emptied, cleared out, stopped in time. It’s like the writing is so powerful that I just have to put the book down and wait a bit before I take on any more of it or it will overwhelm me.

book you borrowed and never returned

I work at the library, which is where I borrow my books, and I always return them, if not always on time. When I borrow a book from a friend, I always return that too, because I’m afraid if I don’t, that person will stop being my friend.

strangest book you’ve ever read

I think every book I've totally fallen in love with has seemed strange to start with. When I read Céline's Death on the Installment Plan and Journey to the End of Night they seemed pretty bizarre at the outset, but it didn't take long for me to feel quite comfortable amid all those ellipses... and to find myself laughing out loud – belly laughs. (Actually, Céline’s The Paris Review interview seemed strange from start to finish, I never really got over how strange it felt as I read it – by far the best interview I've ever read.)

Maybe it's that I feel uncomfortable with what I'm encountering, maybe that's what I think of when I think of a book seeming strange. The writers I most love give me something I start off thinking is strange and before too long I'm totally in love. Lish did it with Peru and Krupp's Lulu. Jonathan Goldstein did it with Lenny Bruce is Dead and Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! Derek McCormack keeps doing it every time he gives me something of his to read – recently it was a short article about the Flintstones and an artist he knows and admires. And the preface Derek wrote for Hush up and listen stinky poo butt is pretty strange. That one totally freaked me out, because, when he sent it to me to look over before the book came out, I thought he'd sent the wrong file for the first two or three paragraphs. I closed the file so I could check the file name on the email attachment. Finally it became clear what Derek was doing, and I laughed in utter joy, because what he’d managed was so beautiful.

The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills seemed bizarre when I started it. The Man Who Loved Children was another strange one. Like I said, they seem strange when I start out, but it doesn’t take long till I feel like I’m in exactly the right place as I read and it doesn’t seem strange anymore, only wonderful.

Blood Meridian had me flummoxed for the first maybe fifty pages, I didn’t even want to keep reading, but somewhere along the way I lost track of who or where I was and I was just on some kind of high from what McCarthy was doing. I remember riding the bus to work one day and reading a passage where the riders were encountering shadows on a ridge (big surprise) and suddenly I couldn't catch my breath from how unbelievably beautiful the writing was. I looked out the window of the bus, and everything out there in the real world looked strange. I wanted to stop after every sentence and die from how wonderful that book was.

last reading you attended

Linh Dinh at This Ain't the Rosedale Library bookstore in Toronto. Linh and I read together in Buffalo a few days earlier and he totally blew my mind, so when I saw he was going to be in Toronto a few days later, I went. Also reading that night was Angela Rawlings, who is a friend and worked with me on some projects at the library, but I’d never heard her read. She spends a lot of time in Iceland. That’s where she met Linh Dinh, which seems pretty weird, since neither of them is from there. They were both just there at the same time, doing poetry things. There must be a lot of amazing literary activity in Iceland. Angela’s reading at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library was awesome. I had no idea what to expect from her. Talk about strange and beautiful.

most treasured book in your collection

The Bicycle Rider in Beverley Hills because I read the library copy and decided I needed to own a copy of the book. It was out of print, so I went looking online and found a listing for it at a bookseller in Toronto who also ran a bookstore. So I went to that bookstore, thinking I could find it and buy it and save on shipping, and the bookstore was a mess. Everything was piled in no order. The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills wasn’t shelved with the fiction in alphabetical order by author, or even by title. It wasn’t shelved in any order in any section of the store, as far as I could see. I wandered around the store for a while, thinking how hopeless this was. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask the guy who was working in the store. I guess I felt sort of stupid, or cheap for not ordering it online and paying the shipping. I was going to give up when I saw a shelf labelled: First Editions. None of the books on this shelf were in any order, either. The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills was in a stack on the floor in front of the First Editions shelf. That’s my most treasured book, not so much because I loved reading it (I did), but because I found it in that disaster of a bookstore. Don’t get me wrong. I loved that bookstore. It’s exciting to find something beautiful in the middle of chaos – maybe the middle of chaos is the only place to find something beautiful.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

New York Tyrant, because its attitude makes it the most out-there representative I've encountered of an attitude that I’m sure lots of journals have (Blake Butler’s No Colony comes to mind; or Gigantic magazine). But New York Tyrant is like a magnet for adventurous literary exploration. I love what it stands for just as much as I love what it publishes.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Molly Gaudry, a bunch of her stuff – a great piece at Titular most recently. After I read her novella, We Take Me Apart, I wanted more, but this was her first book, so I went looking online. Also, those transcripts of the Gordon Lish class somebody posted, I haven't read more than a few lines, but I feel happy knowing they’re there.

recommended reading list:

Great Books by Canadians I Have Met

- The Show That Smells by Derek McCormack

- The Haunted Hillbilly by Derek McCormack

- Dark Rides by Derek McCormack

- Darkness Then a Blown Kiss by Golda Fried

- Lenny Bruce is Dead by Jonathan Goldstein

- Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein

- Kiss Painting by Sandra Jeppesen

- Burnt Orange Lipstick by Lydia Eugene

- by Julian Zardonovsky (this guy hasn’t actually had his book published yet, but when he does, you should read it)

- The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler (okay, I never met this guy, and he’s dead, so I won’t meet him, but what a great book)

- Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (technically, we’ve only met by email)

- Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel

- Testament by Nino Ricci

- Tell It Slant by Beth Follett

- The Drowned Lands by Stan Dragland

- Found by Souvankham Thammavongsa (okay, another one I’ve only emailed with, but I’m going to meet her at the end of March, and her poetry is sublime)

- Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards

- The Withdrawal Method by Pasha Malla (I might meet him soon)


Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is the author of Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a collection of stories out now from Harper Perennial. He is a contributor to HTMLGiant.com and his personal website is http://www.justindtaylor.net/.

what are you reading now

Rain by Jon Woodward. My copy of this book is actually a galley that Wave Books sent me a few years ago, to consider for review. Wave publishes some of my favorite poets—Joshua Beckman, Noelle Kocot, Matthew Rohrer, Anthony McCann, &c.—so I love to write about them, but Rain, for whatever reason, failed to register when it was new. I have this kind of hazy memory of not really giving it a close look. But a few weeks ago I ran into Rohrer at an NYU reading, and Woodward came up in conversation. He was emphatic about his love for Rain, so when I got home I scoured my shelves (they’re not organized at all) and was lucky enough to actually find this tiny yellow paperback with a red spine. Better late than never, right? It’s wonderful and vivid and intense.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I want to read In Search of Lost Time, but I want to do it right, and I don’t think I’m capable right now of giving it the attention it deserves/demands. One day… I also bought a copy of Fitzgerald’s The Odyssey a while back (this edition is Pound's preferred) and it’s been sitting on my shelf, tempting or taunting me—I can’t quite tell. And then there’s Emma, which is almost certainly going to get read before either Proust or Homer. I’m a huge admirer of Austen’s, and Emma is one of the few left I haven’t read. My friend Amy sent it to me over the holidays. This is the one I’m actually going to read. Very soon.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I’m not sure, honestly. My Loose Thread by Dennis Cooper is one I’ve re-read many times, and it usually goes down in one clean shot. Ray by Barry Hannah—that’s a great way to spend an afternoon. The first time I read Jernigan, my teacher David Gates’s first novel, it was in one approximately seven hour marathon session. But I also like to savor books I’m enjoying, so sometimes I’ll force myself to stop and sleep on it, just so I can spend a second day in its company. That’s how I read Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel. And A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell. And Jernigan, all the times after that first one.

book you borrowed and never returned

Actual Air by David Berman. I stole this from a college roommate and never gave it back. It’s become one of my favorite books in the world, and I wrote an essay about it for The Believer where I went into this whole thing about all the notes that Peter and I had each written in it at different times, and going back over those notes now. On his most recent visit to New York, over New Year’s 2009-->2010, Peter finally succeeded in stealing it back from me, but I guess that’s not the same as me “returning” it, so the answer stands.

most scribble-ridden book in your collection

It would either be the Berman book that I just talked about (which, face it, Peter, is only temporarily on leave from my collection) or else my copy of Donald Barthelme’s Sixty Stories.

collected stories of

Flannery O’Connor. Donald Barthelme, even though they’re spread over three volumes (Sixty Stories, Forty Stories, Flying to America). Amy Hempel. Jim Shepard, though Love and Hydrogen is actually a “new and selected.” Raymond Carver. H.P. Lovecraft. Also, Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy, which is this great old Harper Perennial edition of eight or nine of his novellas plus “Alyosha the Pot.” If it had “Three Hermits” in it, it’d be perfect. Hemingway. Faulkner. Diane Williams. Gary Lutz, when the day comes.

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

I started bringing a copy of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer around to the coffee shop by my house because the barista quoted him on her Facebook page. I ended up trading it to her (temporarily) for a collection of Punk Planet interviews, which probably seems like it tells you everything you need to know about us both, and our little friendship. Maybe it does. Anyway, that’s not a story about a coffee table, but I don’t have a coffee table, so it’s kind of the best I can do, and anyway, she was impressed enough that she went out with me—once. (She lives with a guy now; they seem very happy.) The alternate answer—-much simpler, but infinitely more obnoxious—is Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

The New York Tyrant

best thing you’ve read online recently

The New Republic’s The Book is just fantastic. I’ve been on it almost daily since it launched. They’ve really set a new bar, I think, for what a serious online book review can (and should) be. I link to their stuff all the time on HTMLGiant.

Speaking of which, one of the most recent additions to HTMLGiant is one of my favorite people to read online. She’s also the friend who sent me my about-to-be-read-I-swear-it copy of Emma. Hear that sound? It’s a baseball bouncing off the dining room light fixture and landing on the dinner table—but I don’t care.

Here is everything Amy McDaniel has authored to date for HTMLGiant. I would point readers in particular toward “Some Notes on Affect,” “Is Masocriticism the only way?” “Elitism: An Encomium,” and more recently: “Source Material.” It’s also worth mentioning that her two “Grammar Challenge” posts (on 12/2 and 12/3), which concerned her experience as a student of David Foster Wallace, and included the questions (and on day two, the answers) from a grammar quiz he gave, are the most popular posts in the history of the blog, by a factor of at least ten.

most anticipated upcoming release

Sam Lipsyte - The Ask, a novel (FSG, March). Dawn Raffel - Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, stories (Dzanc, March). Dennis Cooper - Smothered in Hugs, nonfiction (Harper Perennial, June). Dennis Cooper - The Weaklings, poems (Alyson Books, exact date TBA). Have you figured out yet that I’m not good at making choices? More is more is more. Joshua Cohen - Witz, a novel (Dalkey Archive, May). Tao Lin - Richard Yates, a novel (Melville House, fall 2010).

recommended reading list:

The Unclassifiable

Some of my favorite stories exist—in my mind, anyway—in a kind of interstitial zone between the categories novel, novella, and very long short story. In some cases, the author or the publisher specified how the work was to be classified, in other instances that choice was made later by somebody else. Sometimes several somebody elses have made different choices at different times over the years. But what all these works have in common is that each one boasts a marvelous and fruitful tension between the vast vision of the story and the masterful, sometimes ferocious economy with which that vision is rendered. Here then are twenty-two stories – roughly chronological but no promises – which will withstand and transcend any label you give them.

- The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy

- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

- Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

- At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

- "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville

- In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

- “An Education” (in Bloodshed and Three Novellas) by Cynthia Ozick

- Ray by Barry Hannah

- Travesty by John Hawkes

- Edisto and Edisto Revisited by Padgett Powell

- “Heaven” (in Bad Behavior) by Mary Gaitskill

- “Orbit” (in The Spectacle of the Body) by Noy Holland

- The Name of the World by Denis Johnson

- “The Term Paper Artist” (in Arkansas: Three Novellas) by David Leavitt

- “Bounty” (in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline) by George Saunders

- My Loose Thread and “The Ash Gray Proclamation” (the latter in Ugly Man) by Dennis Cooper

- Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

- Milk by Darcey Steinke

- Project X by Jim Shepard

- Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin


Aaron Burch

Aaron Burch’s How To Take Yourself Apart, How to Make Yourself Anew, won PANK’s chapbook contest and is due out any day now, or may even already be out, depending on when this interview goes up. His How To Predict the Weather is due out from Keyhole Books later this year, and stories are in the current or out-very-soon issues of New York Tyrant, Barrelhouse, Quick Fiction, and PANK. He is the editor of Hobart.

what are you reading now

I started answering these questions a few weeks ago, then got overwhelmed with the holidays and whatnot and so am now finally getting back to it. Then, I’d just finished Victor LaValle’s Big Machine, which I loved, and was starting Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist. I’ve now moved on to Robert Lopez’s Kamby Bolongo Mean River and, as always, I’m reading stories here and there in literary journals, and lots of submissions. I’m also kind of dipping my toes, for “research” on a story I’m working on right now, into the Bible and a book about Paul Bunyan.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Oh, all of them. I’m super underread. I know it’s not a “classic” in the traditional sense of the word, but I’ve been meaning to read McCarthy’s Blood Meridian forever. The only other “classics”/older books that look to be in my current “to-read” pile are some Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Mikhail Bulgakov, West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, and Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. Though I don’t actually foresee getting to any of those anytime soon.

book you borrowed and never returned

Well, it’s possible both Miss Lonelyhearts and Thursday are in the above mentioned “to-read” pile because both are borrowed. I’ve had Barry Graham’s The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing forever. I’m sure there are a few others that snuck onto the bookshelf.

last book to induce gut-busting laughter

I want to say I read a small excerpt of Lipsyte’s The Ask somewhere, and I don’t often push into “gut-busting” but it made me laugh. The two writers who immediately come to mind are Lipsyte and Bachelder, who is always making me laugh with his stories and novels and who I just generally love.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

Hm. I’m lazy. I don’t think I’ve read very many (read: any) challenging books. Maybe Lutz and Marcus challenge me the most, at times trying to figure out basically anything about the story at all, all the while still enjoying the language.

weirdest dream involving a book, writer, or literary character

I had a great dream about Dave Housley, one of the Barrelhouse editors the other night. Here’s how I just described it on Facebook:

"... had a dream about AWP. I went to the Barrelhouse table to pick up the new issue, but it was just Dave Housley sitting there by himself, looking like he was at a craft fair. "You didn't bring any issues?" I asked. "Nah," he said. "We never sell any, so I thought I'd try to sell some of my homemade crafts."

I seriously wish I could draw or something so I could fully represent the beauty of this booth from my dream. Like... think of the busiest, gaudiest craft booth you've ever seen at a county fair. Then go from there. It was AMAZING. And Dave looked pretty much like regular ol' Housley, except he had this look on his face, both optimistic, like he was sure he'd sell more goods than they had issues previously, but also a little saddened, like he didn't understand why I was the only one at the table and his amazing crafts weren't just flying off the table. But, still with the glimmer of optimism, like he knew: they'd come. It was slow now, but it was all only a matter of time.

last reading you attended

I just a couple of days ago drove a couple of hours with a couple of friends/fellow UIUC MFA student to Knox College to see Laura van den Berg read. She rocks.

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

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a coffee table. I’ve maybe conspicuously left Hobart out, hoping they might ask me about it.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I don’t know if I could limit it to just one. Why do I have to? I think I currently subscribe to, and/or buy every issue of: Annalemma, Barrelhouse, Quick Fiction, NOON, New York Tyrant, Keyhole, A Public Space, Conjunctions, and American Short Fiction. And then there are at least that many more that I buy almost every issue of…

best thing you’ve read online recently

Russ Evatt’s poem “Poem Ending With A Fragment From A Theory of Truth” on PANK (which you can also listen to!) and Dave Housley’s essay “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” on The Collagist.

most anticipated upcoming release

In full disclosure: mine. I’m kind of geekily anticipating it. I can’t wait to see it, hold it, put it on my coffee table to impress others, even though I don’t have a coffee table and no one ever comes to my apartment.

The less self-centric answer would probably be Lipsyte’s The Ask, although I’m also really looking forward to Matt Bell’s collection.

recommended reading list:

Short Books That Can Fit in Your Pocket and Can Possibly be Read in One Sitting but You May Want to Stretch Out to Prolong Your Enjoyment

The requirements for this are basically evident from the above but otherwise not very strict. I’ve realized recently that I really like novellas. However, when they are included in a longer collection (“a novella and stories”) I rarely read them because they seem daunting, compared to the stories, and yet when published on their own, they are like a short treat and seem so easy when compared to a longer novel.

- A Jello Horse by Matthew Simmons

- The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas by Davy Rothbart (I have the smaller, self-published version of this book which, at about 5” x 7” and only 124 pages, is perfect for the above description)

- all the books by Clear Cut Press

- all the books in the 33-1/3 series of books on classic albums

- all the books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (released by Dalkey Archive, a couple are bigger, but most are small enough to be pocketable, and all are great)

- Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carré (comic)

- Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown (also a comic; probably about half of Brown's books are small and great enough to be included here)

- And, finally, despite being published through Hobart and so possibly exempt from inclusion, I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention both Michelle Orange’s The Sicily Papers and Mary Miller’s Big World. We basically started Short Flight / Long Drive Books with the desire to publish books that fit this reading list description.


Andrew Porter

Andrew Porter is the author of the short story collection, The Theory of Light and Matter, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and was recently republished in paperback by Vintage/Knopf. His fiction has appeared in One Story, Epoch, The Pushcart Prize Anthology and on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” He currently teaches creative writing at Trinity University in San Antonio.

what are you reading now

Right now, I’m reading a few books: Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply, Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, The Best American Short Stories 2009, and What I Can’t Bear Losing, a collection of essays by Gerald Stern.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

A Sentimental Education by Flaubert. I’ve read a lot of Flaubert, and many of my friends have recommended this book to me, but for some reason I’ve never gotten around to reading it.

most treasured book in your collection

There are a few books in my collection that even my closest friends aren’t allowed to borrow. One of these books is my paperback edition of Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk, which is one of my very favorite short story collections and which is also currently “unavailable” (at least in paperback) on Amazon. How a collection this good could ever go out of print is beyond me.

book you borrowed and never returned

I’m very good about returning books to friends, but I believe my copy of Nabokov’s The Eye might still have a very old library card in it.

weirdest dream involving a book, writer, or literary character

I tend to forget my dreams as soon as I wake up, so it’s hard for me to say. I’ve probably had a few anxiety dreams about my own book, if that counts.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

At the end of my last semester of college, my creative writing professor decided on a whim that we should spend the last three weeks of the semester reading Ulysses. At the time, it seemed like a cruel joke. I mean, it was May, the flowers were blooming, most of us were about to graduate in less than a month; but still, I remember sitting in the library stacks and trudging through it, using whatever supplemental materials I could find to make sense of what I was reading. In retrospect, I don’t know how I made it through the entire book, but I did, and I can honestly say it was probably, in the end, one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life.

collected stories of

Flannery O’Connor.

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

I can’t remember ever doing this, but I have definitely hidden some of my Entertainment Weeklys under copies of The New Yorker.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

That’s easy. One Story. I don’t know of another magazine out there that’s publishing more interesting fiction these days.

best thing you’ve read online recently

The Witches” by Rebecca Curtis over at Five Chapters.

most anticipated upcoming release

I’m very excited to read my friend Doug Dorst’s short story collection The Surf Guru, which should be coming out this spring.

recommended reading list:

The Big Taboo: Writers Writing about Writers

One thing every creative writing professor will tell you is that you should never write a short story about a writer. If you want to make the main character a writer, they’ll say, then make him or her something else: a musician, a painter, a filmmaker, even an actor. And yet, over the years I’ve read some incredibly good short stories about writers, and these are just a few of them:

- “Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses” by Rick Bass

- “92 Days” by Larry Brown

- “Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” by Nam Le

- “A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley

- “Life Story” by John Barth

- “The Office” by Alice Munro

- “How to Tell a Story” by Margo Rabb

- “Put Yourself in My Shoes” by Raymond Carver

- “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta” by Kate Braverman

- “How to Become A Writer” by Lorrie Moore