Robert Swartwood

Robert Swartwood's most recent collection of very short fiction is Phantom Energy.

what are you reading now

The Intruders by Michael Marshall

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I always find this an interesting question, because every person has a different idea of what "classic" means. But for me, there are a few "classics" I've been meaning to read: American Pastoral by Philip Roth, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor (I have read Everything That Rises Must Converge at least) Underworld by Don DeLillo, Blindness by José Saramago, Clockers by Richard Price, The Collected Stories of Richard Yates, just to name a few.

last book you finished in a single sitting

I think it was Mad to Live by Randall Brown.

book you borrowed and never returned

I have three books borrowed from an old English teacher that I haven't returned, not because I don't intend to but just because I haven't gotten around to reading them yet: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

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

Kilgore Trout

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

I don't have a coffee table, but even if I did I'm not sure I would be inclined to keep a certain book out to impress people. However, years ago I did get a large hardcover copy for cheap of The Paris Review Book: of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, the Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953 thinking it would be kind of neat to have. I mean, the title alone is pretty impressive, no?

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

This is the part where everybody always says Tin House, right? Well, I guess I might as well say Tin House, too.

best thing you’ve read online recently

A lot of online stuff I Instapaper on my iPad and come back to months later, and somewhat recently I read and enjoyed "How to Win an Unwinnable War" by Austin Bunn that was in the 2011 fiction issue of The Atlantic. (I know, it was print, too, but I read it via online.)

most anticipated upcoming release

I loved Middlesex, so I was really looking forward to the new one by Jeffrey Eugenides but have heard mixed things, so I'm not really in any hurry to check it out. But the new Stephen King is out, so that will probably be the next book I read.

recommended reading list:

Writers Writing about Writers (the Stephen King Novelist-As-Protagonist Edition, Not Counting Short Stories)

- Salem's Lot

- The Shining

- It

- Misery

- The Dark Half

- Secret Window, Secret Garden

- Desperation

- Bag of Bones

- Cell (protag is graphic novelist)

- Lisey's Story (protag's dead husband was novelist)

(did I miss any?)


Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay lives and writes in the Midwest. Her first book, Ayiti (Artistically Declined Press), is out now.

what are you reading now

I read multiple books at the same time. I'm reading Karaoke Culture by Dubravka Ugresic, Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson, Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein, Circus in Winter by Cathy Day, Cream City Review 35.1, application letters for a poetry position my department is trying to fill, PANK submissions, Bluestem submissions, etc etc etc.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

So damn many. I feel woefully under read and so many of the classics are just missing from my book vocabulary. At the top of the list, I'd start with the Russians.

last book you finished in a single sitting

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

book you borrowed and never returned

American Normal by Lawrence Osborne

favorite book from childhood

Little House on the Prairie, all of them, and they remain my favorites.

most treasured book in your collection

Must I choose just one? The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

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

I don't think that far in advance. My coffee table always has a shocking pile of books on it anyway but they're just what I'm currently working through or have received in the mail.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

This is a very difficult question. I want to say the magazine I edit but that would be cheating. I'm going to go with Hobart. I am never disappointed.

best thing you’ve read online recently

"Assault on the Minibar" by Dubravka Ugresic on The Paris Review blog.

most anticipated upcoming release

I'm looking forward to Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Lidia Yuknavitch's new novel, Threats by Amelia Gray, and The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus.

recommended reading list:

Books I Insist You Read Immediately Because They Are Scorchingly Good

- Play As It Lays by Joan Didion

- Green Girl by Kate Zambreno

- The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

- Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp

- Circling the Drain by Amanda Davis

- Zazen by Vanessa Veselka

- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

- Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell


Steve Almond

Steve Almond is the author of seven books, most recently the story collection God Bless America.

what are you reading now

White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby. It's a novel about the famous French chef Escoffier, and it includes about a zillion descriptions of drool-inducing meals. Just a total blast of literary food porn.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

My wife read Anna Karenina last year and it's been sitting on our bedstand ever since, staring at me in that guilt-provoking way that classics have. Of course, I'm so poorly read that this feeling -- of being guilt-tripped by a book I should have read -- is perpetual.

last book you finished in a single sitting

Busy Monsters by William Giraldi. I first read it in manuscript three years ago. Turned to my wife. Said, "Jesus. This guy is on fire." The prose is totally electric. I also read most of Mr. Bridge the other day. I was looking for a particular episode and I just got sucked right into the sadness and the beauty.

book you borrowed and never returned

I've "borrowed" a lot of Bibles from various hotels. But I'll go with Birds of America, the Lorrie Moore collection. I cadged it off a friend of mine in grad school and hung on to it just long enough to get out of town. Thanks, John. And sorry.

most treasured book in your collection

Without a doubt, the first edition of the John Williams' novel Stoner, sent to me by John Williams' widow. That's one of my favorite books on earth. I'm not one of those guys who gets all fetishistic over first editions -- it's the story that matters. But with this book, whose first edition was so overlooked, it feels special.

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

We don't have a coffee table -- our children would destroy it -- but okay. Lemme think. How about Tantric Sex for Dummies? That would totally impress me. I'm sure I've been guilty of planting fancy books. The problem is I'm always scared someone will ask me about them. Then I have to start lying.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Dude. You're killing me. I've got to choose a favorite? I definitely love the journals that do lots of different genres and weird stuff, such as Tin House and The Normal School. But I also love the more traditional ones like Ploughshares or The Southern Review. Sorry to equivocate.

best thing you’ve read online recently

This: http://therumpus.net/2011/11/the-lonely-voice-13-walser-on-mission-street

Peter Orner is a fantastic writer of stories and novels, and the sort of thoughtful fan who makes me believe in criticism. The Rumpus always has awesome stuff. They manage to write about culture, and literary culture in particular, without dipping into that too-cool-for-school snarkiness.

most anticipated upcoming release

I'm looking forward to the new Vonnegut bio, And So It Goes, by Charles Shields. I'm a huge Vonnegut fan, and there's never been a definitive bio. He had a fascinating life. I can't wait to check this out.

recommended reading list:

Books You've Probably Never Heard Of That Will Blow Your Heart Up

- The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist

- Like Love, But Not Exactly by François Camoin

- The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński

- Stoner by John Williams

- Torch by Cheryl Strayed

- My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up by Stephen Elliot

- Lighthouse: A Trifle by William Monahan

- Living Room War by Michael Arlen