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.