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?