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”)


  1. what a great poem by Henry Kearney, IV, thanks!

    and an autobiography by your a father when he was 16, that's amazing. I wish I had something like that. I wish I'd written an autobiography when I was 16 so I could leave it for my kids.

  2. I've downloaded the free Jane Austen e-books for my Nokia mobile, and I've found that the books are well- written, however, the storyline are often a tad boring for me! So, totally agree with you!