Tom Williams

Tom Williams is the author of The Mimic's Own Voice (Main Street Rag Publishing Co). He has also published numerous stories, reviews, and essays, most recently in RE:AL, The Collagist, Booth and Slab. An associate editor of American Book Review, he will become Chair of English at Morehead State University this summer.

what are you reading now

A whole lot: I finished Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water and found it the bravest memoir I've ever read. Haven't read a whole lot of memoirs, though. But if everyone wrote one like Lidia, there'd be a lot less complaining about the genre. I just finished an ARC of Billy Giraldi's Busy Monsters; it's slated to come out in the summer and it's hilarious and sad and heart warming all at once. I've moved on to JA Tyler's Inconceivable Wilson and Caleb J Ross's Stranger Will. And I try to read one story from Al Heathcock's Volt a week; they're just too bruising to read one after the other. Plus, Phong Nguyen's Memory Sickness and Brian Allen Carr's Short Bus just came in the mail.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

The Education of Henry Adams is one I've opened time and time again and always gotten distracted by something else. It seems one of those books that a writer and an English professor (which I sometimes am) should have completed.

last book you finished in a single sitting

It's fairly recent and it's Ben Tanzer's You Can Make Him Like You--the novel combines both an interesting subject matter/plot and the kind of treatment (short, intense chapters, each almost a story on its own) that kept it in my hands on a fairly long flight from Austin to DC.

book you borrowed and never returned

Call me in a week to see if I got back to the former president of my about to be former university his copy of Peter Hoeg's Tales of the Night.

For sure, I have never returned Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness, which is a fascinating book that I borrowed (read "stole") from my best friend, a philosopher of mind. I think the penalty I'm paying is that I can only understand about a tenth of the book, though it has all matter of wonderful phrases in it: my favorite is "my love weighs twenty grams."

strangest book you’ve ever read

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood. It felt like reading another language with a fever.

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

I suspect Ray Midge would have the best route, Dean Moriarty would get me there the fastest, and Jay Gatsby would have the coolest car. But I really think the best partner for such an endeavor would have to be, for me, Henry Wiggen, from Mark Harris's Bang the Drum Slowly, because he shares with us the wisest of words at the end of that wonderful novel (and equally good film): "From here on in I rag nobody."

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

Mine: The Mimic's Own Voice. My wife still made me take out the garbage.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Barrelhouse: Because they've had the good sense to publish my work twice (plus mention me and Matt Bell in their power ballad), they've lived up to their promise of supplying free beer for life, and because in each issue Dave, Aaron, Dan, Joe, Matt and Mike have the kind of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and a comic that demonstrates a healthy love affair with letters but also the kind of wiseguy skepticism that keeps things lively and relevant.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Matt Bell's National Short Story Month commentary. I wish I believed that Matt slept. But he can't possibly have the time.

most anticipated upcoming release

See above: Giraldi, William. Busy Monsters. I've already read it, but I'm hopeful that the book breaks out in a big way. Billy deserves it.

recommended reading list:

Multicultural Literature They're Not Reading in Multicultural Literature Courses

The sad thing to me, as an academic, is how quickly canonized and codified the reading list for Multicultural Lit courses have become. Worse, books seem to get selected not for their aesthetic achievement but for how they can spell out clearly for even the dimmest of students clear cut, capital P Problems. I'd want to make things fun, throw in some cool shit, like:

- Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed

- Bone by Fae Myenne Ng

- The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb

- The Fast Red Road by Stephen Graham Jones

- Corregidora by Gayl Jones

- The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas by Reginald McKnight

- Her Wild American Self by M. Evelina Galang

Liven things up a little, you know?


Seth Fried

Seth Fried's short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Tin House, One Story, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and Vice. His debut short story collection, The Great Frustration, was published in May 2011 by Soft Skull Press.

what are you reading now

I am just about to finish The Book of Imaginary Beings by Borges. The last third of my forthcoming collection is a bestiary of fake microscopic organisms, and so someone recommended I check out this Borges book. It would have been an amazing resource while I was writing my book, but unfortunately I came to it a little late.

Even if you're not writing a bestiary, I think it's a phenomenal book. In two or three hundreds words Borges will provide you with amazing insight on really complex and ambiguous creatures.

A favorite passage from the book’s description of the chimera: "[...] all authorities agree that the monster originally came from Lycia, where there is a volcano that bears its name. The base of the volcano is infested with serpents; on its sides there are meadows where goats pasture; and on the top, flames shoot forth and lions have their dens. The Chimera might, then, be a metaphor for that wonderful mountain."

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Every so often I tell myself that I am going to read Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, and then I just straight up don't. On several occasions I have given the first five pages a very close and enthusiastic read. However, I inevitably end up being sidetracked by some other book that isn't a 1400 page prescientific treatise on melancholy.

last book you finished in a single sitting

The Grand Hotels of Joseph Cornell by Robert Coover

book you borrowed and never returned

In undergrad a good friend lent me Stanley Elkin's Greatest Hits and I never gave it back. In my defense, it's not like I failed to return it out of laziness. I loved the book and was deliberately trying to steal it.

most treasured book in your collection

My copy of Catch-22 is the first really important book I ever read. I've had it since I was about 14 and it looks like hell.

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

Qfwfq from Cosmicomics and t zero. He was around for The Big Bang. He has taken a rowboat to the moon. He was alive when birds were discovered. He was once a dinosaur. Those are all qualities I look for in a traveling companion.

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

I remember doing a lot of showing off when I first read Foucault’s Madness and Civilization. I haven't picked it up in a while, but back then I remember finding it ridiculously dense and challenging. I might even be trying to show off by mentioning it now.

collected stories of


if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

One Story

best thing you’ve read online recently

When I was attending undergrad, my friend and I used to go to art museums and base stories on the paintings. The title story of my collection was inspired by a painting called The Garden of Eden at The Toledo Museum of Art. However, probably my favorite story from that series was one my friend wrote called "The Bored Madonna" (Moon Milk Review).

most anticipated upcoming release

Steven Millhauser's We Others is going to be amazing. Also, I'm really looking forward to Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All The Time.

Recommended Reading List:

Mega Anthology

There is a mega anthology I am constantly putting together in my head. It changes all the time, but right now it would include the following stories:

- "The Adventure of the Bather" by Italo Calvino (Difficult Loves)

- "The Sandman" by Donald Barthelme (Amateurs)

- "Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses" by Rick Bass (The Watch)

- "The Rememberer" by Aimee Bender (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt)

- "Partisans" by Karl Taro Greenfeld (One Story)

- "Kafka Cooks Dinner" by Lydia Davis (Varieties of Disturbance)

- "Bigfoot Stole My Wife" by Ron Carlson (The News of the World)

- "The Guest" by Stanley Elkin (Criers & Kibitzers, Kibitzers & Criers)

- "Pet Milk" by Stuart Dybek (The Coast of Chicago)

- "The Amazing Drowning Woman" by Brent Van Horne (The Milan Review)

- "Cockroaches in Autumn" by Lydia Davis (Break It Down)

- "Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph" by Marie-Helene Bertino (American Short Fiction)

- "Realism" by Charles Yu (Third Class Superhero)

- "Box" by J. David Stevens (The Paris Review)

- "The Dinosaurs" by Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics)

- "The Magic Poker" by Robert Coover (Pricksongs and Descants)

- "Relief" by Peter Ho Davies (The Ugliest House in the World)

- "The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners)

- "This Is a Story About My Friend George, the Toy Inventor" by Grace Paley (Later That Same Day)

- "B Positive" by Michael Czyzniejewski (Elephants in Our Bedroom)

- "Paradise Park" by Steven Millhauser (The Knife Thrower)

- "Ghosting" by John Hodgman (The Paris Review)

- "A Common Misunderstanding" by Franz Kafka (The Complete Stories)

- "Girl and Giraffe" by Lydia Millet (Love in Infant Monkeys)

- "The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death" by Shawn Vestal (Tin House)

- "No Kaddish for Weinstein" by Woody Allen (Without Feathers)

- "Signifying Nothing" by David Foster Wallace (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men)

- "The Joke" by J. David Stevens (Mexico is Missing)

- "The Balloon" by Donald Barthelme (Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts)

- "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Collected Stories)


Brian Allen Carr

Brian Allen Carr is the author of Short Bus (Texas Review Press) and the forthcoming Vampire Conditions (Holler Presents). He edits Dark Sky Press and is assistant editor of Boulevard.

what are you reading now

I just finished Tom Williams's excellent The Mimic’s Own Voice and Scott McClanahan’s Stories V, which is a killer read. I’ve been reading a lot of noir. I’m not sure why. Thompson, Cain, Hammet. I’m always reading some Dickens. I’m fixing to re-read Great Expectations. I really want to get the new Deb Olin Unferth, but I’m so behind in my reading that I’m not sure when I’d get to it.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I need to read Proust. It’s sitting on my shelf at work. I read more classics than contemporary, but the great books seem to choose their own time to be read--at least in my case. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to In Search of Lost Time, but I hope to. Though, I think the translation I have is Remembrance of Things Past.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I think it was The Postman Always Rings Twice. That’s one of my favorite books. So much happens in those 112 pages. And it’s very precise. I’m becoming a great fan of plot. More and more. Sentence fandom is growing boring. Though I say that and then I’ll read something from Jamie Iredell’s The Book of Freaks, or Blake Butler’s There Is No Year, or Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird, and I’ll think language is the real direction of our generation. Daniel Woodrell is pretty much who I want to be when I grow up, but whenever I try to do extreme plot driven narratives my writing crumbles. I’d never be able to write a book like James M. Cain did. Quick jabs of plot and panic. I was chatting with Matt Bell recently and I think we both decided that the best thing to be able to write would be 100 page French novels. Well, he said it, I just agreed. Like, say, The Stranger. A book which was inspired by The Postman. . . Or, what might even be better than that, The Little Prince. I can read that book once a month. There’s another great little book by Mexican/American writer Tomás Rivera called . . . y no se lo trago la tierra. Which, in English, is usually translated as . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him. That book is mammoth, though not enough people read it. There was this book that Archipelago released last year (I think) called Plants Don’t Drink Coffee by Unai Elorriaga, that I also read in a single sitting, and which made me cry. But, I think that . . . y no se lo trago la tierra, The Little Prince, and Plants Don’t Drink Coffee could all be considered young adult fiction, or even children’s books. I like emotions, it seems.

book you borrowed and never returned

Mario Vargas Llosa’s Who Killed Palomino Molero? I borrowed it from my brother shortly before he died. I really, really wish I could give it back to him. What’s kind of weird is that the book’s about this really beautiful bolero singer who is murdered. It’s a mystery. My brother was beautiful, and the events surrounding his death are shrouded with uncertainty. To this day we don’t know if he was murdered or committed suicide. I need Lieutenant Silva and Officer Lituma on the case, because they found Palomino’s killer. And it only took them 150 pages. It’s been 10 years, and I don’t know shit.

most treasured book in your collection

My grandfather gave me a big picture book of Edgar Alan Poe stories and poems when I was six years old. It’s so awesome. There are definitions in the margins, and the poems tell you how to decode them. I love Poe. Recently I realized that he would have had a southern drawl, and that made me love him more. Read “Alone” with a southern drawl. Don’t imagine Poe as an emo kid. Imagine him as a whiskey-drinking redneck.

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

Lolita. Who else?

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


if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Probably Hobart. Aaron Burch knows what’s up. His books are getting progressively more beautiful, as are the issues of the mag. I’ve got a story coming out in issue 13 that I’m very stoked about. I think it was my sixth attempt to place a story with them. It was the most excited I’d been about an acceptance in a bit.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Stephen Graham Jones’s “Modern Love” over at Everyday Genius is insane, but I guess that came out a bit ago, and it’s just that I re-read it often. Jensen Beach had a story at BULL a while back that was also brilliant. Um, I don’t know. Oh, Tim Jones-Yelvington’s “Clean Babies” at HTMLGIANT was very entertaining.

most anticipated upcoming release

I’m really excited about Mel Bosworth’s Freight. I’m also looking forward to the new Patrick deWitt. I want to read Seth Fried’s story collection. I’m really interested to see Amelia Gray’s debut novel, Threats. We had her down for a reading at South Texas College, where I teach, and she gave us a selection of it, and it sounded superb.

recommended reading list:

Post-Modern Mexican-American Titles That More People Should Read

- The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna by Dagoberto Gilb

- . . . y no se lo trago la tierra by Tomás Rivera

- The Valley by Rolando Hinojosa

- Martin; And, Meditations on the South Valley by Jimmy Santiago Baca

- Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros (a lot of people actually have read this one, but most likely in the wrong way).