Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Heather Hartley, On Reading

"At university, any way to make money seemed like a good way—at least for a couple of hours. From fish market monger to cork sandal seller to grammar tutor, it was all about pocketing cash for rent and summer trips and lipsticks. Reading was not first on my list in those days.

Then I was hired by the rare books library and it was there that divinity appeared to me, in my own hands, in the form of leather-bound, gilt-stamped volumes of Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It. Even the scent of work was divine. And suddenly, those satiny glints of Daring Rose, Lilac Sky and Wicked Brown didn’t seem quite as crucial.

I would sneak in a chapter of Huck and his adventures amidst the shelving. Paragraphs were slipped in while cataloguing. I could not stop reading. I bought paperback copies to mark up at home. As any good university student, I stayed up late at night—but now it was to read. And books—those amazing blocks of godliness—took precedence in my co-ed life and on my shelves. Move over, Kicky Carmine Sunset, make way for words."

Heather Hartley is the author of Knock Knock and is Paris Editor for Tin House magazine. She curates Shakespeare & Company Bookshop’s weekly reading series. Visit her website here for more information.}

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kate Bernheimer, On Reading

"It is a cliché but reading has always provided me with the greatest escape from the scary container of my own life and other people’s fearsome behavior. In reading I find rare consolation. I learned early on I could create the sensation of safety and solitude by entering nearly any book’s pages—as a kid this was often a comic book or magical novel, but I’ve always been omnivorous in my literary taste. The book is the thing. In desperation I can find consolation in other printed matter—one particular manual for an 8-track player at a mean friend’s sleepover party comes quickly to mind. But immersing myself in a book is sublime.

I read recently somewhere that scientists have confirmed something we bookworms always have known: that the scent of books , especially library books and old books, can release happy feelings, also known as endorphins. Some perfumeries are apparently trying to reproduce 'old book smell' and put it into their little bottles! Why don’t doctors prescribe constitutionals to the public library, I wonder?

One of my earliest memories of experiencing the reading sublime involves my first memorization of a poem. I remember discovering the poem in the library of my grade school. It was around fifth grade, and I had begun to be bullied around the same time.

Its first three and a half lines immediately etched themselves into my memory. These lines used to constantly pop into my head as I sat alone at recess, often under a giant tire in the playground where also were many spiders and worms. Though this is, in retrospect, an eerie poem, in childhood the poem did not trouble me—no, quite the contrary. The lines kept me great company for many years, made me feel safe and blissful in my quest for anonymity among other kids.

'I'm Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too? / Then there's a pair of us? / Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know! / How dreary – to be – Somebody! / How public – like a Frog – / To tell one's name – the livelong June – / To an admiring Bog!'

Sheer bliss, that poem. I think when I first found it, it was as the epigraph to a middle reader novel—with a supernatural plot. Though I never have confirmed this. Of course now I know it’s by one of my favorite writers of all time, Emily Dickinson, whose poems I read daily."

{Kate Bernheimer's first story collection, Horse, Flower, Bird, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press and is illustrated by Rikki Ducornet. Her third anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, is forthcoming from Penguin Books. She is the author of the novels The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold and a children's book, and founder and editor of the literary journal Fairy Tale Review. Associate Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, she is married to the poet Brent Hendricks.}

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cooper Renner, On Reading

"I used to be a public school librarian. Sometimes I would ask the students, 'Where is yesterday? Where is your own past?' And they would realize that it's only inside their heads. 'So are the books you read.' Reading is a way to take this one life--the only one you know for sure you have--and make it into hundreds or thousands of lives."

Cooper Renner's chapbook, Dr. Polidori's Sketchbook, appeared earlier this year from Mud Luscious Press. Other fictions are current or upcoming with New York Tyrant and The Anemone Sidecar. Visit his website here for more information.}

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prathna Lor, On Reading

"When I am upon my books, it is not because reality has failed me, rather, I seek novel ways to engage it."

Prathna Lor (b. 1989) is the author of Ventriloquism, forthcoming from Future Tense Books. He lives in Canada. Visit his website here for more information.}

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kendra Grant Malone, On Reading

"I have dyslexia, so reading has always been very difficult for me. This has greatly influenced what kind of things I like to read. I favor poetry, because it is broken up and swift. I also favor writers that use simple language and small words to convey ideas. I don't like to tell people I'm dyslexic unless I have to because often people respond with pity or a lot of questions. How could a writer be dyslexic?! When people hear about disabilities of any kind all they see is a world of limits and they feel sad for you, like you are an incomplete version of themselves. I feel sorry for people who aren't dyslexic. They will never be moved they way I am moved by simplicity.

Often I hear people say things like 'If you want to be a good writer, read more.' Reading has become a tool for many writers to be better at writing, more informed, more skilled, or to help them out of a block. For me, writing has taught me to read."

Kendra Grant Malone lives in Brooklyn with her cat Delores Grant Malone. Her first book of poetry will be available from Scrambler Books in September of 2010. You can read more of her work here.}

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zoë Jenny, On Reading

"As a child I was fascinated by books and their ability to take you on a journey. It never ceases to amaze me how one can travel the world and live through the experiences of others while all the while sitting in a room with nothing but a book in one's hand."

Zoë Jenny is the author of Der Ruf des Muschelhorns (2000), Ein schnelles Leben (2002), Das Portrait (2007), The Pollen Room (1997), and her latest novel is The Sky Is Changing (2010). Visit her website here for more information.}

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lydia Millet, On Reading

"There's a chemistry that occurs between the human brain and the written word and the white spaces on the page — a chemistry quite unlike any other. Of course, chemistry is a metaphor in the terms of science, but there are other metaphors that work as well; reading is also an act of magic or mysticism, even an act of strange religion. The sublime manifests itself in words, the unspeakable comes out of words and goes beyond them.

We can’t separate our thinking from words, as we can separate it from so many other human productions. Words seem to exist in us both before and after thought, as well as during thought and being thought. They're both eternally outside our control and actively, if elusively, within it.

Because of the power that words have in our minds, the words of others — and especially the passionate and individual, idiosyncratic compendia of words that form themselves into books — are a kind of communion between minds, a communion that can't be reached in other ways. In books we have something unique. As long as we put ourselves into books, our passion and our intelligence and the parts of us that can’t be seen anywhere else at all, we have nothing to fear.

As long as we read, and read well, we need not fear obsolescence, we need not fear even death. Great books speak beyond death. They are the death-defiers. Books are the vessels that exist both inside and outside time."

Lydia Millet's collection of short stories, Love In Infant Monkeys, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She is the author of several novels, including Everyone's Pretty, How The Dead Dream, and My Happy Life, which won the PEN-USA Award for Fiction. Visit her website here for more information.}

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blake Butler, On Reading

"Reading is eating. There are corndogs and there is cereal and there is lettuce. It's fun to get a lot of weird shit up in your waddle. You get really hungry sometimes, and other times you want to go for a good big walk. I like exercising on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill while I read because it's like becoming and unbecoming the fat boy at once, which pushes out inside doubly. Sometimes I drive my car and read. I drive better because of it. I want everything inside me. I want to see a dog squatting over America. Books have butts. They have legs and arms and money. Some will help you to the bed. Guns are in books sometimes and sometimes, less often, Hostess products appear. My mom taught me to want to read by showing me a big bag I was not allowed to look in. I took one book out at a time. I am a pig child and so I ate it and I ate the words and I got XL. I had to wear the shirts that looked like teepees. Thanks, books."

Blake Butler edits HTML Giant and will release his third book, There Is No Year, from Harper Perennial in 2011. Visit his website here for more information.}

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lily Hoang, On Reading

"Books are my graying hairs: there is only one until one is five and five is a million and on and on. I can pluck my hair more quickly than I can read a book though.

I don’t pull out my gray hairs."

Lily Hoang is the author of The Evolutionary Revolution, Changing (recipient of a 2009 PEN/Beyond Margins Award), and Parabola (winner of the 2006 Chiasmus Press Un-Doing the Novel Contest). She serves as an Associate Editor at Starcherone Books and Editor at Tarpaulin Sky. Visit her website here for more information.}

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amy King, On Reading

"Start A Revolution: Read This Book

Reading appears passive because it takes place in a chair, on a bed, at the beach, in the tub, etc. Reading is action, exercise demanding strength of mind. Therein lies the resistance ('so boring!') of folks spoon-fed DVDs and television growing up (John Berryman replies, 'Ever to confess you're bored / means you have no /Inner Resources.'). Reading these words requires mind muscle that the average episode of Law and Order does not (exemption: visual arts can render complex readings). Watching takes less effort, but using your cabeza to think-into-being concepts, characters, and ideas lying dormant in a book, well, this means working the imagination into a sweat and, by default, developing other difficult-to-discuss human attributes like empathy and conscience. We stretch and test and grow those head-muscles through debate, analysis, and reading. When we neglect such exercises, when we simply let worldly representations enter our heads unquestioned, those muscles atrophy. We go numb, passive and blanketly accept most anything, eventually. Sense of self fades, as does ability to discriminate harmful practices and ideas from better ones. We turn sheep and look to the flock for answers. Nietzsche weeps. We can’t imagine walking in another’s shoes; the stuff that makes us human eludes. Pull the blanket tighter around our favorite default setting (‘me, me, me’) instead of becoming a little less selfish. Reading enables identification with the other (O romantic notion) and to think beyond and, conversely, add to our knowledge-base. Apropos, David Foster Wallace quoted Don DeLillo, '…if serious reading disappears in this country, it will mean that whatever--it will mean that whatever we mean by the term identity has ceased to exist.' Why schedule work-outs for the body, but neglect everything above the neck? Start a revolution, 'Kill your television' and 'Steal this book.'"

Amy King's most recent book is Slaves to Do These Things (Blazevox), and forthcoming, I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press). She is currently preparing a book of interviews with the poet Ron Padgett. She also teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. With Ana Božičević, King co-curates the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry. For more information, please visit her website here.}

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

John Domini, On Reading

"Reading happily, engaging both the spine and the boneless complexity at its top, takes me down through the layers of an old city dig, so that under one plaster surface I’ll discover the European stateliness of Beckett or Conrad, then under another the American restlessness of Cather or Hawkes, and then deeper still the sketchy figures of Christ or Achilles or Enkidu; and while these discoveries feel genuine and worth pointing out, and while in essays and reviews I’ve pointed them out, the eternal shapes in the textures of narrative, at the same time those figures also seem personal, I mean the archeology also reveals the clear traces of my own rise and fall (and fall, and fall), so that if I’m thinking of Achilles I’m also thinking of some Stories of Greek Heroes compiled by some anthologist I couldn’t possibly remember now, or if I’m thinking of Conrad I’m also thinking of how I tried to share my enthusiasm for Nostromo with a girl from the next borough, a lover more or less; and so reading now also stirs me like a long marriage, in which the whisper of a well-made sentence can reanimate hurts or pleasures I’d have believed were fossilized themselves, but in fact nothing’s ever finally a fossil, it’s all telling stories, and around me they rise again, clamoring, numberless, invisible cities."

John Domini has won awards in all genres, publishing fiction in Paris Review, Ploughshares, and anthologies, non-fiction in GQ, The New York Times, and other journals, and poetry in Zone 3, Meridian (Editors’ Prize, 2006), and elsewhere. Grants have included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ingram-Merrill Foundation. The Emerging Writers Network, in a four-and-a-half-star review, called his novels from '07 and '08, Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery, "back-to-back stunners." Tomb on the Periphery also made the '09 short list at the London Book Festival for "the best of international publishing," and Earthquake I.D., in Italian translation, was runner-up for the Domenico Rea prize. Please visit his website here for more information.}

Monday, June 14, 2010

Eric Beeny, On Reading

"Reading is a much more effective way of critically engaging and contributing to the literary culture than writing. Producing literature in any form is certainly an effort to enrich that culture, and to see oneself temporarily immortalized by one's peers and, hopefully, by an audience. That appears to be the desired result. But without reading works written prior to one's emergence into the culture, there exists no dialogue between writers and their writings. All art is dialectical and therefore every piece is a response or proposition, if not to a particular artist then to a particular work of art—or, in literature, to the canon as a whole. That dialectic, that conversation over time, designs a kind of blueprint, a map of where literature and art have come from, why they've adopted their current incarnations. Without that blueprint to inform the cultural architecture one hopes to construct in the future, collapse won’t be the earthquake's fault...."

Eric Beeny is the author of The Dying Bloom (Pangur Ban Party, 2009), Snowing Fireflies (Folded Word Press, 2010) and Of Creatures (Gold Wake Press, 2011). His blog can be found at Dead End on Progressive Ave.}

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Matthew Savoca, On Reading

"When I was twelve or so, I read White Fang, Call of the Wild, and this other book that I have never since been able to find the title of. It was called Flight of something or Plight of something. It involved a wolf again. It was about a wolf named Gray who killed some other dog or something and then a farmer was trying to kill him, but the young boy loved the wolf so he ran away with him to save him. They lived in the woods on the run. After those books about boys and wolves, I think I read Congo and then Sphere by Michael Crichton. After that, I didn't read anything for a really long time. Then when I was twenty or so, I started reading again since I didn't own any 'going out' clothes. I read lots of classics that I hadn't been reading and then I read almost everything by Hemingway and then basically everything by any Russian writer. Eventually I started reading much more contemporary writing which I sort of felt pretty unexcited about until I ended up finding writers like Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Jean Rhys, Richard Yates, etc. and occasionally a really good older book like I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal. But I don't really read so much anymore. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm past the age of 27 which I think is when certain people lose interest in stuff for a period of anywhere between 3 months and 11 years, at the end of which they begin to get interested in things again, maybe."

Matthew Savoca (born USA 1982) is the author of long love poem with descriptive title, a poetry book to be published in September 2010 by Scrambler Books. Visit his website here for more information.}

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Michael Meyerhofer, On Reading

"Like a lot of writers, I read both for entertainment and inspiration. While I primarily draw from daily life, there's nothing like a great line or a solid image from another writer to kick-start the creative process, even inspire a little healthy competition ('Hey, I wonder if I can write a better poem/story than what I just read!'). I'm primarily drawn to writers who blend accessible narrative and what feels like sincere, resonating emotion with a little humor and/or a feeling of emotional objectivity or a hint of (dare I say it?) wisdom. Some examples: Stephen Dobyns, Dorianne Laux, George Bilgere, Tony Hoagland, Djelloul Marbrook, Sharon Olds, Beth Ann Fennelly, Mary Biddinger, and Jeannine Hall Gailey. I also like to dip my heels in prose from time to time with the likes of J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, Tobias Wolff, Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut. I spend a lot of time reading lit journals--not just to get a good mix of contemporary poetry and prose, but to look for trends and aesthetics on behalf of editors today. Otherwise, I'm a total dork and spend untold hours on Wikipedia and various science websites or listening to Alan Watts lectures."

Michael Meyerhofer’s second book, Blue Collar Eulogies, was published by Steel Toe Books. His first, Leaving Iowa, won the Liam Rector First Book Award. He has also won the Marjorie J. Wilson Best Poem Contest, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Laureate Prize, the Annie Finch Prize for Poetry, and four chapbook prizes. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, North American Review, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Quick Fiction and other journals, and can be read online at his website here and at his blog here.}

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sasha Fletcher, On Reading

"I. I think it is as important to not like a book as it is to like a book, and I think it's even more important to try to figure out why we feel what we feel towards what we read.

II. And anyway I read a lot when I am stuck so that I can find something really good to borrow or steal or anything at all to get me to line my words up in a better formation.

III. But I read mostly because I like to. Because I want to feel something. To get excited. To be moved. To fall to my knees and fucking weep.

IV. Another way to put it is that when I was in the third grade I broke my right wrist and so instead of learning cursive I had to write book reports and at some point it became more interesting to me to make up the stories I had read than to write about something someone else wrote about and this is the point probably where things started to happen but I never would have done that if it wasn't for all those goddam book reports each and every week."

Sasha Fletcher's novella When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill The Streets And We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs In The Clouds is out now from Mud Luscious Press. He is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Columbia University in the city of New York. Visit his website here for more information.}

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kevin Sampsell, On Reading

"The other day, right before my weekend began, I starting thinking about what I wanted to do with my days off. My social calendar was free--no parties or readings to go to--and no assignments to finish. I could start on my next big writing project, a novel I keep procrastinating on, but something else tugged on my heart stronger. Chopping away at the big forest of books that I have scattered around the home. That's right--I like reading more than I like writing.

I thought about it and confronted myself with a question: If I could do anything with my time--if I was the LAST PERSON ALIVE ON EARTH!--what would I do? The answer, perhaps boring and predictable: I'd want to read. Buildings could be crumbling around me and fires engulfing clothing stores and I'd probably just be looking for a comfortable couch to lay on with some Nabakov (who I still have not read yet!) or some Daniel Clowes comics. Sure, I'd go to the neighborhood DVD rental place and scavenge through the wreckage for good movies each day too--but even with movies, my main focus and source of enjoyment comes from how the writer, director, and actors tell a story. I watch movies to see how visual stories are built.

But most of the time would be spent reading. I'd even walk around neighborhoods and towns (like the man and boy in Cormac McCarthy's The Road) and break into people's houses just to see their books. Maybe I'd lounge on their sofa or rock in their rocking chair and read things that I never thought I'd read--Louis L'Amour or Stephanie Meyer--while I ate whatever non-perishable food they had. Maybe I'd discover something new and alive and beautiful. I would laugh and cry. I would read the best lines out loud, just to startle the silence. Makes Doomsday sound kind of okay."

Kevin Sampsell is the editor of the anthology Portland Noir, the publisher of Future Tense Books, and the author of Creamy Bullets and A Common Pornography. Please visit his website here for more information.}

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Marta Acosta, On Reading

"On the day I learned to read, I couldn’t wait to get inside the house to show my mother. We sat down on the front steps of our Berkeley home and I read my children’s book to her. Reading was magical and I was amazed that these ink marks on paper could tell a story.

I fell in love with reading that day and I am still in love with it.

There is a joke: What is the difference between a spouse and a dog? After a year, the dog is still happy to see you come home. A book always welcomes you, too."

Marta Acosta is the author of the award-winning Casa Dracula series, including the upcoming Haunted Honeymoon (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, October 2010). Her most recent novel is Nancy's Theory of Style, which was released in May under her pen name Grace Coopersmith. Her websites can be found here and here, and she blogs here.}

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kyle Minor, On Reading

"Reading is my primary pleasure. Here is a list of books stacked on my desk this morning:

Elegy for the Southern Drawl, Rodney Jones
The Colony, Jillian Weise
The Shining, Stephen King
For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander
American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campbell
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera
Collected Novellas, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
All Aunt Hagar's Children, Edward P. Jones
The Rector of Justin, Louis Auchincloss
Miracle Boy and Other Stories, Pinckney Benedict
The Stories of John Cheever
Jesus' Son
, Denis Johnson
Witz, Joshua Cohen
Correction, Thomas Bernhard
American Rendering, Andrew Hudgins
Sabbath's Theater, Philip Roth
Quotidiana, Patrick Madden
Stoner, John Williams
Extra Lives, Tom Bissell
The Oxford Book of Letters, ed. Frank Kermode
The Pugilist at Rest, Thom Jones
Blow-Up and Other Stories, Julio Cortazar
The Union Jack, Imre Kertesz
Hue and Cry, James Alan McPherson
The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

Wet Places at Noon, Lee K. Abbott
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace
India after Gandhi, R. Guha
Hard Times, Studs Terkel
In the Gloaming, Alice Elliott Dark
Open Secrets, Alice Munro
The Departure Lounge, Paul Eggers
With the Beatles, Lewis Lapham
The Best European Fiction 2010 (Dalkey)
A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze/Guattari
Pank No. 4

My desk is badly in need of straightening-up."

Kyle Minor is the author of In the Devil's Territory, a collection of stories and novellas. Recent work appears in Best American Mystery Stories, The Southern Review, and He lives in Ohio. Visit his website here for more information.}

Monday, June 7, 2010

Antonia Crane, On Reading

"I’m promiscuous with books. When I pick up a book, I’m attracted to the title and compelled by the opening sentence. Within the first fifty pages, I’m after a thrill. If it doesn’t happen fast enough, I tell it to get the fuck out of my house. Then I pick up another book and dig for the juice to get me writing. I cruise for sentences that make me gasp; characters that I want to kill or kiss; endings that leave me wanting more. This goes on for weeks, until I have four or five books going at once, until one of them makes me ache, scream or laugh out loud and that’s the one I finish because I used it as a springboard to dunk me into my own work until it’s time to find another."

Antonia Crane has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Her memoir is titled Stripped: Tales of a Sexual Outlaw. Excerpts have been published in The Coachella Review and Black Clock Press. She has received scholarships from College of the Redwoods, Mills College, Antioch University and The Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She’s a sex worker and free-lance journalist who lives in Los Angeles. She's a featured columnist for The Rumpus and is an editor at The Citron Review. You can check out her blog here.}

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jason Jordan, On Reading

"I've adopted the 'finish what you start' adage when it comes to reading. That is, I finish a book even if I hate it. I do this because I've found that when I finish a book I don't like, I'm more able to shape and express my opinions than when I put it down at the first taste of disinterest/dislike. This practice informs my writing, because it helps me know what I like, what I don't like, and why, and what I believe I should or shouldn't do in my own writing. It's great to read a book you love, but I think it's equally important to be familiar with those you don't."

Jason Jordan holds an MFA from Chatham University. His forthcoming books are Cloud and Other Stories and Powering the Devil's Circus: Redux--both from Six Gallery Press, 2010. His work has appeared in over forty literary magazines. Additionally, he edits decomP, accessible here, and his blog can be found here.}

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brandi Wells, On Reading

"Reading, like drinking a glass of milk or walking the dog or masturbating, is one of those things I have to do before I can sleep. Otherwise I toss and turn and think about Big Macs and German chocolate ice cream."

Brandi Wells has a chapbook forthcoming in the chapbook collective, Fox Force 5 (Paper Hero Press). Visit her website here for more information.}

Friday, June 4, 2010

CL Bledsoe, On Reading

"I’m a reader from a family of readers. I’m not a snob when it comes to books, because I realized long ago that critics have agendas, though I don’t really enjoy simplistic books. Right now, I’m reading The Anthologist by NicholsonBaker and Lamb by Christopher Moore. Now that it’s summer, I’m looking forward to reading Enduring, Donald Harington’s last novel, and Tom Jones. If one wants to be a writer, one has to read. If one wants to understand the world, one has to read. Luckily, reading is one of the most fun things a person can do alone."

CL Bledsoe is the author of two poetry collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem. A short story collection, Naming the Animals, is forthcoming this summer. He regularly reviews for a number of journals. Visit his blog here for more information.}

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ravi Mangla, On Reading

"The ability and desire to create art is a defining characteristic of the human species, yet another quality that separates us from our animal relatives. Which is to say, after finishing a good short story or poem I have this powerful urge to go outside and taunt the neighbor’s cat, flap a book cover in front of a terrified squirrel, but with considerable difficulty I resist. Why? Because reading teaches empathy. And empathy is pretty damn important. Books continue to further my evolution as a writer and as a human being."

Ravi Mangla's short fiction has appeared or will appear soon in Mid-American Review, Gargoyle, Annalemma, Sleepingfish, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. He is the Associate Series Editor for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. Visit his website here and his collection of reading lists here.}

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ben Greenman, On Reading

"I can't quite survive without writing, and reading is, to me, part of writing. They are two ends of the same process, as intertwined as eating and shi...well, there you go -- thirty words in and I've already run up against a vulgarity. Let's change that and say that reading is the inbreath and writing is the outbreath. I have gone moderate stretches without reading, mostly because I was younger, and, being younger, believed a professor who told me, quite authoritatively, that a real writer did not read other people's books while he was working on his own. That guy was wrong. I depend upon reading as I depend upon music, or conversation, or looking at the world: it provides me with ideas, perspectives, company, competition, light, loss, and love. It provides everything. Books are magical things, entire worlds contained in objects the size of a dinner plate."

Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Please Step Back, and the forthcoming What He's Poised To Do. He lives in Brooklyn and maintains a website here.}

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Martin Page, On Reading

"La plupart des choses que je lis ne sont pas des livres.

Tout à commencé par des romans c’est vrai, ils m’ont formé, ils m’ont appris à poser un regard passionné et scrutateur sur les choses, à transformer des mots en images et en sensations ; mais peu à peu la lecture est devenue une faculté propre, un don qui s’appliquait à tous les objets.

Les livres nous enseignent ceci : le monde entier se lit. Il n’y a pas d’évidence. Voir, entendre, goûter, ce n’est rien. Ce que nous voyons il faut le lire, ce que nous mangeons il faut le lire. Les choses ne sont pas données. Nous les prenons. Nous les captivons et les décodons.

La lecture est une expérience générale et permanente. Il n’y a pas de différence entre nos yeux qui suivent une ligne de texte et ces mêmes yeux qui regardent la personne qui se trouve en face de nous.

Bien sûr on peut ne pas avoir conscience de cette lecture, on peut la refuser ; on peut décider de la réserver aux livres. On peut faire comme s’il suffisait de voir, d’entendre, de recevoir le monde sur notre rétine. Mais cela signifie devenir un simple support où s’impriment les caractères du monde. Nous sommes lus, c’est pourquoi il nous faut lire."

{Martin Page's novel, How I Became Stupid (Penguin), has been translated into twenty-four languages and was awarded the Euregio-Schüler-Literaturpreis. His most recent novel, The Discreet Pleasures Of Rejection (Penguin), was published in January of 2010. Visit his website here for more information.}