What are you reading right now? Lord Jim and The Three Roosevelts, for the most part. Just a small part for Tristram Shandy, which I like a lot more in concept than in reality. I'll probably start Death of a Salesman before the day's over.
Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that? Tessa Hadley's The Master Bedroom (just ordered, should be here tomorrow) or Andromeda Romano-Lax's The Spanish Bow (review copy).
What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now? A stack of Believer magazines, long ignored because I don't also keep reading glasses in the bathroom.
What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read? My first job back in the workforce after staying home with the kids was scoring writing profiency tests. One midwestern state that I shall not name had evidently "taught" their third graders to write five paragraph essays in this manner: four sentences, A, B, C, D, in first paragraph; four sentences, B, C, D, A, in second paragraph; C, D, A, B and D, A, B, C in third and fourth; and back to A, B, C, D for a rehash in paragraph five. Four sentences copied over five times. The end.
The writing prompt called for a narrative on the funniest thing the kids had ever seen. The third graders wrote their, uh, stories in the essay format above. Oh, and one of the four sentences was usually a list of all the people who witnessed So-and-So slip in the mud or on the ice (the two funniest events that ever occurred in this nameless midwestern state) and a statement that this indeed was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
Let me tell you, I wanted everyone who'd mandated third graders write in such a robotic manner to slip in the mud and die.
What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? I don't recommend one thing to just about everyone, because just about everyone I know isn't much of a reader or they read the types of things I don't, but I recommend Robin Hemley's memoir Nola to everyone I can. It's got spirituality for those who are into religion, and mental illness for those who are into crazy family stories, and plenty of writers writing for those who are into craft.
Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they? They kinda sorta have to since I work there.
Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all? Gosh, just about anything I ever recommended for local book clubs--Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, E.M. Forster--turned out to be disliked by those in attendance. That's why I don't do book clubs anymore.
Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re having sex? While you’re driving? While I'm eating. I'm not much of a multi-tasker.
When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits? The summer after third grade when my cousin came over from Ireland, she hid all my books. My mother and I found Misty of Chincoteague back behind the canning jars in the cabinet and Stormy, Misty's Foal in the laundry pile down in the basement weeks after she'd gone back to Dublin.
What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? These days I'm more apt to stop reading a book in its final pages if the hour gets too late (say 9 or 10 pm) and resume reading it first thing in the morning because I know I'll miss a lot of the details. It's frustrating to have a brain that shuts off early, but there's not much I can do to change it. The last book I stayed up reading was Special Topics in Calamity Physics last October, but that was because I was jetlagged after the trip to Utah and couldn't sleep anyway.
Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.
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