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