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