Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mark Leidner, On Reading

"Reading is like getting a ride somewhere. You don't have to fight traffic, worry about cops, old maps, malfunctioning GPSs; you don't choose the music, the speed, or how aggressively or defensively to drive; you don't have to use your body, or your eyes if you don't want to; you're not responsible for anything, etc. The driver handles all that. You just sit there and look around while all the scenery you have no control over washes through your field of vision. In this way reading has always felt lazy and unmeaningful to me, compared to writing. But sometimes you're in the hands of a driver so capable, and the ride is so spectacular, that you forgive yourself for not having caused it. I think that's called humility... I'm not sure."

Mark Leidner is the author of The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover (Sator Press, 2011), a book of aphorisms, and Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me (Factory Hollow, 2011), a book of poetry. He grew up in Georgia and now lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.}

Friday, December 2, 2011

Claudia Smith, On Reading

"I wish I could read the way I read as a child. When I write, I still lose myself the way I did in books back then but now, things are hectic. I can't luxuriate in a book all night, listening to the rain, impervious to time. There are too many things to do.

My grandparents had a room they called 'the junk room.' It was filled with canned goods, decorations for every season, dry goods, and what my grandmother called various and sundry things.

There were also books. We weren't allowed in the room. It was where Santa kept his presents, and thrifty Santa shopped for Xmas all year long. But I read whatever I found.

I was sickly and somehow I always got well when I stayed with my grandmother. She believed if you were sick you had to stay in bed. I didn't mind this at all. I read for hours in the big blue room with a shaggy dog named Poppy curled up beside me. She was a mutt with Beagle eyes and she would gaze at me with love as I read all the Grimm's fairytales -- the ones with the most unfortunate endings -- aloud to her. At some point my grandmother had belonged to the book of the month club, and these books had wonderful titles. She was a James Herriot fan. I read So Dear To My Heart and I discovered Betty Smith. I found a book called Apple Tree Lean Down and must have read it three or four times one summer. I discovered a whole series of Nancy Drew mysteries published in the nineteen-teens. I read Hans Christian Anderson. One winter, my grandmother gave me an old brass bell and told me to ring it if I needed her. I only rang it a once and I was treated to a tray of Campbell's tomato soup with cheesy fish crackers in bed. Sometimes I had a plate of apples and cheese. I gained weight, stopped vomiting all the time, and read and read and read.

That room seems very precious and close to me even now. There were high windows, and trinkets on the dresser. I read At The Back Of the North Wind on a cold sunny day, with curtains stirring slightly in the breeze. I remember this! I also remember discovering Wuthering Heights. I didn't know what it was about at all, and this was my most delicious find. I remember finding the old paperback in a closet. Healthcliff and Cathy were kissing on its cover, and all the muscles of her beautiful white neck were taut. Heathcliff was wearing something velvet with a puffy white shirt. He was tall, dark, handsome. That is my first memory of wanting to kiss someone.

The book started out humdrum, and I almost put it down. But then came a dream with a waifish girl begging to be let in, and the ghost story transformed into a dark love story! I read that one pretty much straight through. I had no idea what Wuthering Heights meant to English departments around the country. I just knew I loved the moors and that twisted romance more than any of the gentle romances I'd pulled off the junk room shelves.

The joy of reading -- and it is my joy -- for me is much like the joy of writing. When I read that dark romance so many years ago, there was nothing and no one between me and the page. It didn't matter how many had read those words; in that blue room, Heathcliff and Cathy were mine alone. I didn't even read about them to Poppy."

{Claudia Smith is the author of The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts (Rose Metal Press) and Put Your Head In My Lap (Future Tense Books). Her stories have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Norton's The New Sudden Fiction: Short Short Stories From America And Beyond. More about her work may be found at}

Monday, November 28, 2011

Melissa Broder, On Reading

"I am a very hungry and thirsty girl. I have an infinite god-shaped hole inside. I want to be sated and de-thirsted 24 hours a day. If I can’t be sated and de-thirsted 24 hours a day I want to be lifted up out of my body so I don’t have to feel anything or so I can feel only euphoric. Sometimes poetry does one of these things for me: sates or de-thirsts or lifts. I read my first poems at six. I wrote my first poems at eight. I have since tried many other ways to fill the god-shaped hole, but poetry is one of the safest ways I know how. The main consequence of reading poetry, for me, is writing poetry."

Melissa Broder is the author of two poetry collections, Meat Heart (forthcoming from Publishing Genius, 2012) and When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, February 2010). Visit her here for more information.}

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Robert Kloss, On Reading

“I’ve never really thought about why I read or what it means to me. I’ve never had the need to justify the action, even when my father or my teachers made me feel like it was a less than healthy activity — I just sneaked around to do it. Honestly, I think I just fell into the habit when I was very young and I always kept at it. But, then again, I was always good at it and it was one of the few things I was good at so for whatever reason it was a natural activity. It was also one of the few things I liked to do so I did it whenever I could. At the moment I started to read I also started to write and I think the two have always been bound up in each other. Writing was the other thing I liked to do that I was also good at. Had I been able to draw or had I been able to sing or had I been more athletic things may have worked out differently. Slowly I think the writing cannibalized the reading, so now most or all of my reading happens so that I can write — it’s research or its inspiration, searching for power. I read how Melville wrote Moby-Dick while reading Shakespeare and Greek tragedy and Sterne and Rabelais and how those geniuses somehow unlocked his own genius. I have to admit I have always tried to do the same thing, with not quite as startling results. So I suppose if I have any requirement of the books I read, now, its that they should startle me. I don’t read for a good yarn or to gain some insight into why people do what they do or some other abstract insight: I suppose I read to be startled and amazed by something brilliant and awesome, like an old time prophet caught in the glow and hum of the burning bush.”

{Robert Kloss is the author of How the Days of Love & Diphtheria (Mud Luscious Press/Nephew) and The Alligators of Abraham (Mud Luscious Press, 2012). He is found online at}

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ryan Call, On Reading

"My mother has a rule regarding books: don't throw them. As children, my sister and I were not allowed to throw books in our parents' house. We could throw other objects, certainly, and we did throw other objects, often at each other, but we did not throw books. Now, whenever I throw a book, I think about my mother and how much I love her."

Ryan Call is the author of The Weather Stations (Caketrain). His stories appear in Mid-American Review, New York Tyrant, Conjunctions, Annalemma, and elsewhere. He teaches English and coaches cross country at a high school in Houston. Visit him here for more information.}

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Alissa Nutting, On Reading

"I grew up in a very safe, boring home. It’s no accident that ‘boring,’ as a verb, means ‘to drill a hole.’ Life as we currently experience it gives us a lot of holes, from boredom and many other places; voids that we fill with a variety of things, by necessity, in order to feel full enough to keep going. I’ve tried quite a few methods of easing the pain of lack (an inescapable pain that even the best live-rs will feel now and then, given our temporary lives, faulty bodies, and general dearth of control). Of every salve I’ve tried, I would like to give my endorsement to books.

As a child, books were the spaces where I could go make all the unwise decisions I knew deep down I wanted to make but was not permitted (they still are, except now I’m the one not permitting myself). For every urge, there is a book (and if there isn’t, you need to write it please). For every problem, there is a book (and if there isn’t…). Putting yourself between covers—inside an open book—is just as intimate and vulnerable an act as putting yourself between the sheets of a bed. You and the author are communing together in a way that no one else can ever know or experience.

Plus reading is the most polite selfish act ever. Sitting in a corner and reading, I emit very little waste or sound. I am not distracting to others. This is a benefit not to be underappreciated in a crowded world.

I mainly live in books, and have ever since I could read. Vicarious is an ugly word to many, but not to me, not when it comes to reading. Unlike a movie or video-game simulation, the act of reading is as personalized as a fingerprint. No two people have the exact same thoughts or visualizations when reading the same book. It’s an experience that is yours, and belongs to you, just as all that any of us ever have beyond the present—our memories—belong to us. Except for the current moment, we have nothing, really, but the slides stored in our imagination.

As a form of acquisition, reading makes me wildly greedy. I try to read up on anything I’m curious about, afraid of, obsessed upon, or unfamiliar with. Reading is another word for more—more experience, more knowledge. More understanding. When I want more, I read, and it feels like I get to throw a few more handfuls of dirt into the chasms, the omissions of life that sting."

Alissa Nutting, an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at John Carroll University, is the author of the short story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. Her website is}

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tim Horvath, On Reading

"My daughter is learning how to read right now one room over at the very moment I’m writing this. And I am sitting on the couch, or was until I broke off to write this, learning how to read myself. We talk about knowing how to read as if it is like knowing how to tie shoelaces, or how to prepare a particular meal—an either/or, a process that we might master, proudly strutting in our newly-knotted sneakers and ladling lobster-speckled paella onto plates. But the more I do of it, the more I suspect that we never really know how to read. It might sound like I’m being archly postmodern, taking shots at fish-barrel range at the very possibility of knowledge, but that’s not what I’m going for.

My daughter sounds out words…oftener she gets them right, the short ones almost always. She asks things like “is it a ‘c’ or a ‘k’ in ‘crackle?” She gets stymied on 'musicians.' She writes 'j' for 'ch' and in her own story writes 'ixclamd,' which I can only think of as a word in a language spoken somewhere with a brutal climate. Her questions, when they arise, are readily answered. The fun, for her, has just begun.

It verges on cliché that every difficult book must teach the reader how to read it. These days I am dipping into Joshua Cohen’s Witz, in which I might get hung up on 'the throb of shaigetzes.' But most of the words in Witz are familiar; it is not the vocabulary that makes it a challenging, if uncommonly pleasurable read. It is more that with its gushing, pagelong sentences and profusion of allusions, it is just plain tough going. To know when to count a clause/sentence/page done, or done enough to move on. Impossible? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, though, that I will never know how to read this book. And I often wonder whether reading even simpler, more straightforward books is just as mysterious.

In this spirit, then, I ask, do you know if you’ve read a book? If you have read all but the last twenty pages have you read it? When, as a teacher, I assign reading, I expect my students to read. Sometimes the ones who have can’t provide specific details from what they’ve read, and sometimes those who haven’t can rattle them off like they wrote the thing. But even if we put the most flagrant cases of those who didn’t read on one side of the room (the spine uncracked, rods and cones that don’t know from the ink in question), I wonder how much those who have read really have in common. Have you read a book if you have consciously looked at all the words? What does 'consciously' mean? (Send in the neurophilosophers). Have you read a book if you have read it quickly and enjoyed it but not really reflected, not really thought about it? What is reflection, and how does it differ from recollection? Every reading a rereading, Nabokov mused, okay. But how do you even know if you've reread the first time? What makes you so sure? If your mind wandered, how much attunement to the words on the page qualifies you for to get the sticker, like the ones we wear on Election Day, that announces 'I READ'? In my daughter’s case, she might get actual stickers…

To read is just a damned odd verb, is what I want to say. Can we use place as an analogy? It strikes me that it’s a lot easier to know that you’ve visited a place than that you’ve read something. I suppose we could each visit a place and have such utterly different experiences of it that it seems like an entirely different place, and the same might be said for a book. Could we have such utterly divergent encounters with a book that it becomes, for all intents and purposes, two books? Actually bifurcates? Book cloning? Is that ethical? What I’m getting at, more broadly, can be underscored by this juxtaposition of reading and visiting a place. (But maybe we should problematize traveling, too. One might visit a place deeply or superficially. I want to at least think of myself as a proponent of deep traveling, not only wide.)

What is depth? What is width? In terms of reading, most, I think, would agree that reading widely helps you to read deeply, situates you in a context that helps your understanding of any individual work, and possibly we could say the same about traveling, that having been to many places augments your ability to appreciate a new place. But is that so? Could wide reading, in some instances, dilute, as going a bunch of places in rapid succession can make the places themselves seem too much the same, introduce too many parallels to be useful, turning it into routine and numbing the eyes and ears, all the senses with a surfeit of too-familiar exoticism? Well, could reading too widely do the same? Perhaps one ought to read with a deliberate narrowness, dwell in a single book for a year or more as we do with those we author. When others are consuming by the hundreds, trading favorites, rookies-of-the-year, etc. will you tout your scuffed, dogeared pair fifty times apiece? Is narrowness necessary, or even desirable, for depth? I do not know how to answer these things.

What I do know is that I am always learning to read. Nowhere does the dictum 'Zen mind, beginner’s mind' weigh so aptly. Sure there are times I’ll feel the opposite, the literary equivalent of pulling into the umpteenth city on a puddle-hopping whirlwind tour, jet-lagged and burned out. Another sleep-deprived innkeeper whose mustache flops onto the coffee-stained check-in registry? Another overzealous shopkeeper? I’ll read things where I’ll feel like 'I’ve already read this/seen this/been through this a hundred times before.' But more often I’m daunted. To take in all the undercurrents of sound, of implication, the unsaid, to translate between the spatio-temporal on the page and that in the world, to infuse voice and vision with life, to balance upright on the tendrils of text for the full swerve of a paragraph, giving due heed to every glint of nuance, to appreciate what the hell is going on in the story, to read both with and against the text and orthogonal to what is written…I will never really master this, I think, never get my sticker. Still, you will hear me go with convention and say 'I’ve read x, I’ve read y, haven’t read z yet, hope to get to it someday.' I will always be learning to read. But I do know that 'crackle' is spelled with a 'c,' unless it’s the candy bar, in which case yes, you can have exactly one."

Tim Horvath is the author of Circulation (sunnyoutside press) and the forthcoming collection Understories, which will be published by Bellevue Literary Press in May 2012. His stories appear in Conjunctions, Fiction, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing at Chester College of New England and works as a part-time psychiatric counselor.}

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Edward Mullany, On Reading

"I was in the park, reading a paperback novel, when the sky darkened, and one or two raindrops plopped onto my knee. 'Come on,' I said to my dog, who was sleeping beside me on the grass, 'if we don’t hurry, we’re going to get wet.' We started out of the park, me walking quickly at first, and my dog trotting, but slowed when I saw that the clouds had parted and that the raindrops I’d felt had not been indicative of further rain. We stood in the middle of a wide path, and I looked up through the branches of a leafy tree, while my dog sniffed the ground patiently, his leash slack. 'What are we doing?' I said to myself and to my dog, who looked at me for a moment before staring off at something he'd seen or thought he'd seen. The book I had been reading was a page-turner. I was enjoying it."

Edward Mullany is the author of If I Falter at the Gallows (Publishing Genius, 2011).}

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jillian Lauren, On Reading

"It's appropriate that it's late right now (too late for a woman who has to wake at dawn with a toddler), and I'm writing about reading. Because late is when I've always read, since I was a child. First with a flashlight and then when I got busted--as I often did because they were onto me--by the red light of my digital alarm clock.

Late at night is when I conduct my love affair with books.

Now I read late because I don't have any other time in the day to sit down and sink into a book. But that wasn't always the case. When I was young, I read late nights because it was a quiet time during which I could spiral out into the darkness and explore the endless possibilities that I found in books. Books were the only thing in my life that spoke to the kind of magic I suspected was shimmering in the shadows in the corners of my room. I certainly couldn't find it in the people surrounding me in my small, stiflingly conservative suburban town. Nor in the world of school and soccer and temple and birthday parties and sameness through which I shuffled in the daylight.

Or maybe it was simpler than that. Maybe I just couldn't sleep. Maybe I was desperately lonely. But wherever the longing came from, ultimately it made me fall deeply in love with reading.

I have rarely met a writer for whom books were not a salvation, an obsessive passion, the first true love of their life.

And there are times I forget how much I love to read. There are times that reading and I grow too familiar with each other. There are times that I pick up book after book and put them down after thirty pages, unable to stay engaged with them for one reason or another. But inevitably, a book finds its way to the top of my unruly pile and it grabs me by the throat. It blows the top of my head wide open. And I lie there late at night vibrating with the same passion as ever for the singular experience of connecting with a work of literature.

I read for the same reason I write--to experience a space of infinite possibility. And more importantly, to connect. To connect with with my own deepest humanity and with that of others. Which is to say, to fall in love."

{Jillian Lauren is the author of the novel, Pretty and the New York Times bestselling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem. Visit her website here, and she can be found on Twitter, here.}

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to be a good live reading audience member

This is a guest post by
Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: Friend him on Facebook:

Etiquette is important. Whether downing clam chowder or chowing down on a clam, understanding the context of any event and knowing how best to position yourself within it is an important skill. This knowledge-set extends also into the world of live literature readings. Long assumed by literary outsiders to be trivial, boring, mind-numbing, boring, despicable, boring events, the live reading fits these descriptions only to the untrained mind. So, let me train some minds.

1. Bring friends. You don’t have to bring the friends that you want to keep, but if you know one or two annoying hangers-on, trick them into coming with you on the rouse of a few photo-ops with your permission that you can be tagged for the Facebook album. Who am I kidding? If you are going to a book reading, you don’t have many friends, let alone ones you can risk losing. So bring that frumpy girlfriend and the awkward guy and get ready to have an appropriately adequate evening.

2. Pretend you are a fan. To the author, the live reading is the equivalent of a twink going down on a Van Nuys, CA movie director in hopes of a starring role in an upcoming porn adaptation of the early 90s sitcom “Life Goes On” (that was a sitcom, right?). Basically, don’t be afraid to get on your knees and…worship the author. Go ahead and stroke his…ego. Besides, he may just make you famous.

3. Don’t be a rogue decibel. As most fancy things are, book readings are quiet. Eating caviar, sipping fine scotch, ruling poor people, all of these are done quietly (in addition to fancy-ily). Literary readings, for the most part, are true to this rule of fanciness. It’s not that the audience doesn’t want to stir up a mosh pit and scream, but when that happens, the reader cannot be heard. Now, if the reader has a microphone and is fronting a punk collective trashcan ensemble, then screaming might be appropriate. When it doubt, copy other people. If everyone else is moshing, mosh you should.

4. Buy a book. Most readings don’t charge admission. So, consider a book purchase the equivalent of dirty money in the hand of a dirty bouncer. Yes, it is true that you might already have all of the author’s books. So, if you are such the fan that already having the books would imply, then…

5. Open you pages to a signature. It’s okay. Just a little scribble. It doesn’t mean anything. Don’t worry about it. Nobody will find out. Just let him crease that spine and spill a few drops of ink on your pasty white pages. There you go. Doesn’t that feel good? It feels good for him, too. Like a conquest. His greasy fingerprints will live forever on your bookshelf.

6. Ask the author to get a beer after the reading. Especially if this author’s name is Caleb J. Ross.

Photo credit: Designated Disaster

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ben Rubin, On Reading

"I never liked reading growing up. I wanted to, but it always seemed little more than a difficulty, one which was not as enjoyable as those to be found in sport and being with one's friends, as those we discover when learning how to behave and misbehave, usually with smiles on our faces.

Being read to, on the other hand, was always looked forward to with that sense of anticipation; the kind we experience when looking toward a joy, and when felt deeply can almost verge upon anxiety, though this is the side of such anticipation we cannot see. Like a thing behind the sun whose blind fingers invent our bodies.

Yes, that was a thing about the stories that were read to us as children: not only did they have to be read aloud, not only did they have to be read to us, not only did their creatures have no be invoked by another's voice; not just another's voice, but by the voice of one we loved, for fairy tales are filled with magic and thus must be brought to life by incantation. They must be spoken as a spell, and that spell must be filled with love, which by any other name is the deepest magic we know. Not just that, but we had to wait for them. Yes, we had to wait; our anticipation of their arrival was necessary too. It was part of that essential readiness which allowed these new worlds to open within us, that opened us as well, into the world outside, the world into which, even if we entered as a freedom, we stepped intrepidly for it was still so new and strange a thing.

It is often that way. Patience is needed. A certain slowness which allows the event to make its way towards us, and to mean more than a complacency or commonplace when it does so; something special. We must only trust in it, that it will indeed find us, that it knows where live, just as the moon did when we were children, and does still today.

Being read to, yes, I loved being read to. I loved my father's words, even though they were not his own. They were those of someone else transformed by his speaking. And he too was transformed. He read these words, and suddenly he was not just my father. Suddenly he spoke with a mouth of buried moonlight. Then, to read was like an excavation, and it was his voice that would guide our going. To where?

To wherever. It didn't really matter, nor did it matter if that destination was delayed. It was the going that was important. It was the invitation to voyage that ripped us from our rootlets, and helped us begin the long, strange journey we continue today, to see that indeed no everyday is ordinary, to learn to call forth miracles from the tamed circle of the commonplace. What we know now is that it might take a long time to get there. All the better:

In art, no deep magic happens quickly, even if sometimes it seems that way, for you do not stop being an artist merely when you're not making art; something essential is happening even then for it is always happening so long as we are open to it. That is precisely why it is deep, because it takes time to develop, because it is allowed that time. That's one of art's great secrets, and thus too life as well, for everything that happens in art happens in life, happens in the world.

It is just in art that those forces are concentrated and condensed so that we may better feel them, so that we too may be touched deeply by them the way, as children, we were touched deeply by stories that were filled with our parents' breath. Wasn't it their voices that lifted those words from the page, the words then already inseparable from the breath of those we love, so that they could enter into us and become once again human? Wasn't it we who waited at night to be moved by them so that we could move the way the wind moves, so that we could know intimately what it was like when the wind of the world passes into and through a human soul, only remaining for a moment before returning itself again to the deep, illimitable space from whence it came?"

{Ben Rubin is the author and illustrator of When Comes What Darkly Thieves, which is available here. For more information, visit his website here.}

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Janet Skeslien Charles, On Reading

"Reading is like breathing. Necessary. Reading shows us different worlds, different times, different ways of thinking. I have read in stages.

Growing up in a plains town of 2000 souls, about as landlocked as possible, I was able to visit Russia through Anna Karenina and the South through The Sound and the Fury. Novels helped me escape my own world.

Reading made me want to create my own job for my own characters. This was the job I wanted -- to create new places with my own people. Reading -- analyzing the techniques of other authors, looking at the motivations of their characters -- helped me write my own stories.

As I get older, instead of escape, I seek understanding. Why do we do what we do? How do we survive terrible things? I learn the answers from novelists and historians in reading their words."

{Janet Skeslien Charles is the author of Moonlight in Odessa. It has been translated into over a dozen languages and was named a top ten debut by Publishers Weekly in 2009. She works as the Programs Manager at the American Library in Paris and enjoys interviewing other authors on her blog.}

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Laura Ellen Scott, On Reading

"Reading is travel. I read to go. This probably means that everything is travel writing."

{Laura Ellen Scott's debut novel, Death Wishing, will be released by Ig Publishing in October 2011. Her collection of 21 creepy little stories, Curio, is available for free download from Uncanny Valley Press.}

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Emily Rapp, On Reading

"I suffered from insomnia as a child. During those all-night benders of wakefulness, I always reached for The Little House on the Prairie series. Sitting on the windowsill and staring out the dark window, I was comforted – and quite possibly kept awake – by this frontier family’s tales of hardship. Blizzards, famines, crops ruined by neglect or a fatal miscalculation. These were books with real stakes, the only kinds of books I've ever enjoyed reading. I would read three and four books in one night, obsessively plowing through them. And thus my obsessive reading habit began. I still eat books – at least one a week – and whereas I used to read to escape my life, I read now to enrich it. I read to learn what other authors have done differently, sometimes badly. I read to learn about the world through the eyes of another human person telling a story, real or imagined or both. I believe that reading is one of the deepest human connections we make in our fragmented world – being inside the theater of another person’s mind and heart is a unique and terribly human experience. Reading – this authentic connection between author and reader -- is not just an insomniac’s go to activity, it’s also a way of staying human in an increasingly inhumane world."

Emily Rapp is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir, and many essays and stories. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Her next book, Dear Dr. Frankenstein: A Love Story, is about her journey with her son Ronan, who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease. Visit her website here, and her blog, Our Little Seal, can be found here.}

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Noah Eli Gordon, On Reading

"I’m watching a recent episode of That Metal Show online, co-hosted by Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, who interview mostly forgotten heavy metal stars. That the show focuses on a genre that peeked in popularity two decades ago fills the whole production with an air of dejection. Every conversation here hinges on nostalgia; it’s all past tense. Tonight, one of their guests is Sebastian Bach, Skid Row’s original singer. In a segment called Stump the Trunk, where audience members ask Eddie Trunk obscure metal trivia questions, Bach suddenly skitters across the set to stand next to Jim Florentine, who is taking questions from the audience. The move seems unscripted, and although Florentine appears a little surprised, he offers Bach the mic.

Okay, I have a question for Eddie. Eddie, you used to work at Atlantic Records, right? Megafocre, part of…they were distributed by Atlantic. Okay, so you signed Ace Frehley. Is that correct? Correct. I would like you to name the three songs that I sing on Ace’s record Trouble Walkin’. Eddie answers, but he can’t name all three, so according to the show’s rules, Bach gets to reach into what’s called Eddie Trunk’s Box of Junk and pull out a prize. These are mostly promo materials, new CDs, box sets, musical biographies. Bach reaches in, rejects the first few things he pulls out. Okay, Jim Norton’s Disciple, I’ll take this, he says, tapping the CD cover. Yeah, that’s a good one, Florentine interrupts, His new CD, Despicable.

Disciple. Despicable. I feel an instant kinship and affection for Bach, who appeared not to have noticed his mistake. Ten years ago, on stage at a karaoke bar, surround by other grad students, I belted out as best I could Skid Row’s power ballad '18 and Life.' What I lacked in skill (any sense of melody and the ability to carry a tune) I more than made up for with gusto—throwing a fist in the air and swinging the mic stand as though each gesture were a giant, tactile exclamation point for the lyrics flashing from white to yellow across the monitors. I didn’t have to read the lyrics. I knew all the words by heart. I still do. Although I wouldn’t have admitted as much when the song was first released in 1989, a year I was dead set on developing what I then thought of as taste—the ability to carry a dual-consciousness, projecting one set of values publicly, while cradling an often incommensurate, personal, and private stance on the very same things. In other words, if it’s popular, it’s obviously bad, so don’t let on that you’re among the unenlightened lumpenproletariat, no matter how much joy you get from singing along to Skid Row in your mother’s basement.

Disciple. Despicable. Bach glanced at the cover of the CD in his hand for just a second, just long enough to read the text there, but he got it wrong, and with Florentine’s correction I felt something else, even if Bach didn’t—shame. Bach’s mistake is the same one I’ve made again and again. In the classroom. At meetings. Among friends. The mistake that’s lead me to shy away from reading publicly anything I haven’t already gone over in private. At the bar, it didn’t matter what words were scrolling across the monitors. I’d already committed the song to memory. It’s all past tense."

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of several books, including Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and The Source (Futurepoem Books, 2011), a book marking the results of a multi-year investigation in constrained bibliomancy and ambient research. He's an Assistant Professor in English at CU-Boulder's MFA program in Creative Writing.}

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stephen Graham Jones, On Reading

"The trick with reading is that it's its own end. You eat to get nutrition, you breathe to get air, you jump the fence to get the frisbee, you run to get away from the dog, you lie about how big the dog was to impress somebody, you — you write to try to make the world make sense, at least for a few pages. With reading, though, you read just to read, don't you? Sure, maybe it makes you smarter, or convinces you of this or that, or has tricks you can steal, or makes you laugh or cry or cringe, or challenges you in necessary and surprising ways, or connects you to somebody four hundred years ago, or four hundred miles away, or takes you somewhere so much better than where you are now, and leaves you a different person than you were when you opened that book. But none of that's why you opened that book, is it? You opened it just to read."

{Stephen Graham Jones has ten books published, across a lot the genres — always looking for more, too — and four or five or six more coming, and probably a hundred and thirty or so stories published. He got his PhD from FSU and now teaches in the MFA program at CU Boulder, and, the summer he was twelve years old, after reading every Reader's Digest and National Geographic since 1957, he finally had to resort to reading the labels off cans in his grandparents' pantry, making himself hit each word, just to make it last longer. More at}

Paul Lisicky, On Reading

"I'm taking note of breaths, phrases, lists and their components. I'm looking out for disjunctions and associations, the pattern of thinking in a paragraph. I'm steeped in the work of the senses: the scrape of a knife against a plate, the smell of mulch dropped on the ground. Sometimes I'm not even taking in the facts I'm supposed to be taking in, the stuff of plot or cause and effect. But I'm inside a current, definitely. I'm a particle in a stream of sound, a wave pushed this way and that. How often does it come to us? Once, twice in a year? But I pick up new books in the hope of getting that back, that raw state where we're simultaneously escaping the world and feeling more present in it."

{Paul Lisicky is the author of Lawnboy, Famous Builder, and The Burning House. His work appears in recent issues of The Iowa Review, Black Warrior Review, Story Quarterly, The Rumpus, and Lo-Ball. He teaches at NYU. His collection of short prose pieces, Unbuilt Projects, is forthcoming in Fall 2012. See his blog, Mystery Beast, at}

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Richard Thomas, On Reading

"Part of what fuels me as a writer is the world around me. I need to get out into nature, interact with people, ride a subway train, or sit in a coffee shop. But I can't travel to Mars, or go back in time, I don't want to be a serial killer, or live in a van down by the river. So in addition to film and television, I read.

And I read a lot. So far this year, I've read 33 books. Part of that is because of my MFA program, and part of that is because of my book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown, but mostly it's my desire to find new voices, and to revisit old friends. And I read everything, I'm no snob. I'll read books off the NYT bestseller lists and I'll read books from tiny independent presses. Doesn't matter. I read just about every genre out there (sorry romance) from fantasy, science fiction and horror to neo-noir, literary and steampunk. I read big names like Stephen King and John Grisham, as well as new indie authors like Amelia Gray, Mary Miller, Lindsay Hunter, and xTx. I read dark fiction from people like Stephen Graham Jones, Benjamin Percy, Paul Tremblay, Brian Evenson, Craig Clevenger, and Craig Davidson and I read literary masters like George Saunders, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary Gaitskill. I read short story collections, and memoirs and non-fiction too. And don't forget graphic novels.

My point here is that whatever you write, read other genres. You can learn something from every style of writing. Pick up the tension that horror writers need. Study the narrative voices of literary giants. Pour over the technology that science fiction put before you. And learn to create new worlds in fantasy, or build on our own with magical realism.

And if you're not a writer, just a fan of writing, just a reader? First, God Bless you! But also, don't be afraid to expand your horizons. Some of the best books I read in 2010 were by authors that I had never even heard of before. Step outside your comfort zone.

I read for entertainment, I read to experience things I could never do in my real life, and I read to embrace the voices of other authors. There is nothing more intimate and personal than reading a book—the details and emotion fusing with your real life. I read for all of that, and more."

Richard was the winner of the 2009 ChiZine "Enter the world of Filaria" contest. His first novel, a neo-noir, speculative thriller entitled Transubstantiate, came out in 2010 (Otherworld Publications). He has published over 40 stories online and in print. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in such publications as Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Warmed and Bound (Velvet Press), Murky Depths, PANK, Pear Noir!, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Opium, and Vain. In 2011 he was awarded a residency at Writers in the Heartland. Richard was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and in his spare time writes book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown.}

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mathias Svalina, On Reading

"Reading is my mind. Through reading, I think. The text creates my thinking. There are discrete bodies & experiences of the mind. There is no discrete mind. Reading is my mind in other minds & other minds in mine. I am reading Samuel Delaney’s Dahlgren & my mind is a new mind. I cannot think what I think without Samuel Delaney’s Dahlgren. I am reading Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now & my mind is a new mind. I cannot think what I think without Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now. Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source is made up of text from thousands of other books that he read & cribbed from. I am reading Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source & my mind is a new mind of his mind in others’ minds. Noah Eli Gordon cannot think the things that become The Source without reading & I cannot think what I think without Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source. Reading reminds me that the true experience of thinking is that no thinking is interior, that knowledge is ontologically relational. Reading reminds me that the mind is composed in all things."

Mathias Svalina is the author of one book of poems, Destruction Myth (Cleveland State Poetry Center), one book of prose that comes out July 2011, I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur (Mud Luscious Press), & numerous chapbooks. With Zachary Schomburg he edits Octopus Magazine & Octopus Books. Visit him here for more information.}

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ben Spivey, On Reading

"I read for inspiration and for enjoyment. If I'm at a place with my writing where my words are not doing what I want them to do or the words I'm putting together don't excite me how I'd like them to excite me I then need a new focus, a new start, something like resetting a typewriter to get back to where I was. I then dig into my piles of books, staring at them, flipping through them, looking at first sentences—book after book until I find the correct one to get caught up and lost in—I can then create what makes me whole again."

{Ben Spivey is the author of the novel Flowing in the Gossamer Fold (Blue Square Press 2010). He blogs at}

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bonnie Jo Campbell, On Reading

"The relationship between writing and reading is simple for me. When I write, I empty my head onto the paper. When I read, I fill my head up again."

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the novel Once Upon a River (July 2011, W.W. Norton) and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. She was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories, American Salvage, You can check out her website (and photos of her donkeys) at and her writer’s life blog, “The Bone-Eye" at}

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Susanna Daniel, On Reading

"There's a lot of complaining and judgment these days concerning the act of reading -- about the demise of the physical book and traditional publishing, in particular. And yet, everywhere I look: Readers, reading!

I've visited more than twenty book groups in the past year. I've joined, in my adult life, half as many (I always stop going -- for a writer, especially, I think reading tends to be a solitary experience). I am not at all concerned about the future of the book, in whatever form it takes.

My one concern about modern reading isn't that it's on the wane -- all evidence to the contrary -- but that it is homogenizing. There have always been popular books, of course, but it seems that with the rise of book group culture, two things are true:

a) More books have room to be popular at once (a good thing)
b) People who read are expected to read all the same books (not a good thing)

When I visit book groups, I ask what they've been reading, because I'm genuinely curious. In a ten-book-year, seven or eight titles will be repeated across every group. These titles filter through the public consciousness like weather. There's nothing abjectly wrong with this, but it leads to a way of thinking about books that I believe is misguided.

Many people seem to believe these days that a book should be consistently appreciated or even liked, as if every book strives to take its place on a universal reading list (and if a book doesn't, it's failed). This is a misapprehension not only about books but about humans, who experience everything in the world -- the written word included -- individually.

Recently I was taken to task when I said I hadn't read a wildly popular series of novels. I think there was a time when a person might have said, 'No, I haven't read that,' and that would be the end of that part of the discussion. These days, the follow-up question is more likely to be, 'Why? Is there a particular reason you've neglected this book [that everyone else has read and liked]? Are you taking a particular stand against reading this book?'

It's disconcerting. Despite the difficult publishing climate, books continue to be released in numbers much greater than one can reasonably consume. (And of course there's literature's backlist, all the books we wish we'd read but still haven't.) Considering this alone, there should be no expectation -- none at all -- that we all read the same books.

This naturally leads to the question of how to find books to read, which brings up the demise of the brick-and-mortar store and the pastime of browsing. The one path left to lesser-known books? Word of mouth.

So my answer to the question of why I haven't read monumentally popular books X, Y, and Z is this: I want to be part of the word of mouth, not one voice in a million but one in a dozen. I want to be able to say: If you liked that, you might really enjoy this little-known author and his little-known body of work. And if you like it, you can recommend it to your book group. And so on."

{Susanna Daniel's debut novel, Stiltsville, which is due out in paperback at the end of this month, was named a Best Debut of 2010 by You can read more about Stiltsville on her website.}

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thaddeus Rutkowski, On Reading

"Winning slams, even one time, can open doors to readings. I'm no slam champ, but I've been able to read in Berlin, Budapest, Hong Kong, Paris and London, as well as in many cities in the U.S. Sometimes I'm compensated, other times not. But I always have fun reading my work in public."

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the innovative novels Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse. His website can be found here.}

Monday, June 13, 2011

Darby Larson, On Reading

"The swine in the page with ink and blank ink on pixels near the idea of the page. Tattoo words into the eyes of pigs and let the page of the idea read ink and let pixels make happen ideas conjuring ink. An ink is an ink while reading is reading swine with ideas. Make happen the swine more in the page with more ink and thread it like ink on pixels near the idea of the page also. Blacksmithed words into skies and let the pages of a billion ideas thread its ink, let pixels make happen ideas with ink. An ink is ink is ink while threading is threading swine with ideas forever. Make happen this time swine in a page with ink and blue and red thread inkpixels near the lawnmown ideas of ideapages. Tattoo artists have your mother's words in their eyes. Your mothers let their page of threaded ideas thread their ink and their pixels and make their ideas like sewn sweaters for winter. An ink is blinked at, thinked at, while threading is threading swine together with sewn ideas and an apple perhaps. Make sentimexperimental music the swinging swine in the page with ink and threaded ink on spines near the idea the book looked at you during. Tattooed its meaning into your cerebrumless swine first, into the eyes, let the page, the idea thread ink and spines make happen ideas blinking like strobe headlights rearview mirrorlooked. An ink is an ink is an ink is an ink is an ink. While threading is threading swine with love. The swine in the metaphor with ink and threaded like red ink on bloody spines of brewmaster witch libraries. The idea of the metaphor. The idea of the tattooed words. Let the metaphor of the idea thread its pig and spines make good hooks, ideas like pigs and forests. A pig is a pig while threading is reading library spines. Make the slaying in the metaphor with the pig and thread a pig with spines near the metaphor again. Words in shapes like double yous and ohs and ares and dees and eses into eyes and let a metaphor of an idea thread its pig shins and spines conjure your imaginary pig. A pig is a big metaphor while threading is threading slayed with ideas. The slaying in the metaphor with pig and picked pigberries on spines near the love story of the metaphor. Let the metaphor of the love story thread its pig in you with hooks the size of mutant swines and spines with love stories concerning you. A pig is you. You while threading and slayed with love stories. Make art later. You, the slayed swine in the metaphor with your lover pig threaded in cerebrums of a billion human readers. Threaded red pig ink on spines near the love story of the metaphor. Make art love story pigs after reading with inspersperation. A pig is a pig is a pig, read and threaded, while reading is threading slayed with love stories."

Darby Larson is the author of The Iguana Complex. Recent short fiction can be found at Caketrain, The Collagist, kill author, and Everyday Genius. He is the editor of Abjective.}

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sandra Beasley, On Reading

"As a child, there was a year when my brain stopped processing the images from one of my eyes; I was reduced to monovision. The cause? My opthamologist figured out that I had been trying to read past the point of exhaustion every night--first shutting one eye, then the other, resting each eye for 10 pages at a time. They took away my flashlight.

Another time my mother came into my bedroom and discovered graphite marks on the ceiling. Why? I'd been hopping up and down on the mattress, using the point of a pencil to attach a piece of scotch tape to the ceiling. Why the tape? It was supposed to secure a long piece of yarn. Why the yarn? So I could suspend the paperback I was reading over my face. My arms were tired from holding up the book, but I was determined to find out how the story ended.

Reading isn't easy on either spine--that of the book or that of the reader. I sprawl on my belly and prop my chin on my fist. I sit back against pillows. Then I shift the pillows and try again. I lay on my side and lean my cheek to my palm. I turn the pages. I take the papercuts. I love reading, and I've got the aches and pains to prove it. Reading is my only full-contact sport."

{Sandra Beasley is the author of three books, including Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life (Crown) and I Was the Jukebox: Poems (W.W. Norton). Visit her website here for more information.}

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ellen Meister, On Reading

"I believe in the magic of reading. The escape is real, and there is something like rapture in discovering a thought you've had your whole life but never put to words. That giddy moment of 'Yes!' feels like you've been granted a wish.

And as a writer, there's another side to reading. Every book I pick up—good or bad—has something to teach me about my craft."

{Ellen Meister is author of three novels, including The Other Life (Putnam 2011). To learn more, please visit her website at}

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tom Williams, On Reading

"I'm moving, and that means I'm boxing up books, making tough decisions on what to keep and what to leave outside my office door with a FREE BOOKS sign taped above the piles. A lot are easy to toss: textbooks and duplicates and classics that bored me or I've been meaning to read but have realized I'm not going to get to and besides if I really want to I can look them up on Google Books. The ones I'm keeping, though, are those by friends and those by mentors, and those by writers so dear to me it's as if I've never known a time when I wasn't reading them (Charles Johnson, Philip Roth, Flannery O'Connor, Clarice Lispector, Graham Greene). I'll shove them all in a U-Haul box and seal it up, wanting to get this onerous task out of the way. But invariably, my hand, as if on its own, will pause when I pull something from my shelves. And I'll stare at the title, recalling not only the wondrous contents of the book itself but the circumstances, places, and times when I read and reread it. This time it was Mark Harris's Bang the Drum Slowly, a book I'd been thinking about a lot lately, a book I've cherished for decades, which I've wished I'd written and tried too often to rewrite. And I realize again, something I've known forever, that I was a reader first, before I even wanted to be a writer, and that what made me want to write, most likely, was a desire to keep company with people like Mark Harris--whom I never met yet whose heart and mind I feel I know. After that, I stuffed, neatly, carefully, every book into a box. I couldn't leave any more behind."

Tom Williams is the author of The Mimic's Own Voice, which was published this year by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. His stories, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, most recently in Barrelhouse, Booth, The Collagist, RE:AL and Slab. An associate editor of American Book Review, he is the incoming Chair of English at Morehead State University.}

Friday, May 20, 2011

A D Jameson, On Reading

"I used to have lots of concerns about reading, I felt a lot of anxiety, when I was in college. I felt that I hadn’t read enough. I’d buy books compulsively back then, thousands of titles. Some I read. More than a few I never got to. And even the ones I did read, I mostly read long ago, and now have forgotten. (Although I tend to take pretty good notes.)

I eventually rid myself of this anxiety, or most of it. My life goes on, regardless of what I’ve read. Or haven’t read.

And reading new books leaves me less time for rereading. And reading at all leaves me with less time for going to movies, or listening to music, or visiting museums, or walking, or cooking, or working out, or dancing, or having sex.

And no matter how many things I’ve read, and will go on to read, I’ll die without having read all that much, in the grand scheme of things. So it’s better to make use of what I have read, whatever’s at hand.

I feel the same way about movies and music and visual art. About everything, really.

Though I understand now (or I think that I understand) what I was so anxious about back in college. It was not not having read all that much: it was not knowing all that much about books. I didn’t know who was who, so to speak, or what was what. If somebody told me, 'Thomas Pynchon’s new novel is coming out next month,' I didn’t know what to make of that fact; I couldn’t use it. (When somebody did say that to me, in 1996, I borrowed Mason & Dixon from the library, read the first ten pages, returned it. It wouldn’t be another two years till I read a full book by him.)

(And I’ve still never finished reading V. Nor his two newest ones, although I looked at both, purchased one.) (But why did I buy it? Out of some sense of obligation?)

I do enjoy reading very much. These days, I read more and more online. I read a few blogs, occasionally, mainly political ones. I read lots of film reviews. And articles on the card game Magic: The Gathering, of which I’m a fan.

I like reading magazines and newspapers—for instance, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, which I steal when I can (I love doing the crossword). And the Chicago Reader and the Onion, which are both free. And the British Film Institute’s journal Sight & Sound, which I have been reading for over ten years now, and which I joyously purchase every month (it costs $9.99 exactly, no tax).

I read lots of poetry, a few poems every day. I reread my favorite ones over and over: poems by Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Lorine Niedecker, Philip Larkin… Plus song lyrics—especially ones by Morrissey, my hero.

As for books, sometimes I read a whole bunch in a row, and then don’t read any for several months. I often start books and fail to finish them, or wind up skimming them. I’m reading right now:

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara (I’m almost done);
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (I just started; this is reread);
Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown (I greatly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code);
Lion in the Valley, by Elizabeth Peters (I may not finish this one);
The Zapp Gun, by Philip K. Dick (He’s one of my favorite authors; I’d like to read everything he wrote).

I like reading several books at once; it helps to show their individual structures. I also reread books a lot, in whole and in part. That helps me to see their structures, too. (I really like structure.)

That said, it’s good to read very widely, as broadly as possible. And to read about books: where they come from, who their authors are, what others have chose to write about them. Indeed, it might even be more important to know about books than to actually read them. (I am a disciple of Pierre Bayard.)

I like reading best while riding the train, or staying up very late at night, reading a book straight through. (I often do this while on vacation.)

To a very large extent, what I have read, and what I find I most enjoy reading, is arbitrary. My dad owned a lot of Ian Fleming novels, and a lot of Kurt Vonnegut novels. My mom had a lot of children’s books. I read them all, because they were there. I also read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and J.R.R. Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. And to this day, I adore mystery novels and spy thrillers, and science-fiction and fantasy novels, although I rarely read them. (I love the idea of them more than anything; I love those genres.)

I also, while still a child and a teen, read thousands of comic books—more comic books than anything else, I’d guess. Mostly issues of Uncanny X-Men and G.I. Joe; I got hooked when my grandmother bought me a Transformers comic; I read it to tatters.

But why those things? They were what was around. I could have just as easily fallen in love with Westerns and romance novels. Or technical user manuals. Had I grown up around those things.

When I allow myself today to dream about reading, when I fantasize, 'Tonight I will draw a hot bath and sit there as long as I’d like, reading,' I often picture myself reading comic books. They’ve given me the most pleasure."

A D Jameson is the author of the novel Giant Slugs (Lawrence and Gibson) and the prose collection Amazing Adult Fantasy (Mutable Sound). Adam is also a video artist, performer, and soon to be Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In his spare time, he contributes regularly the group literary blog Big Other. For more information, visit his website here.}

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Michael Kimball | Us

Michael Kimball's Us connects the powerful forces of love and death through the process of dying, and the book, itself, is a being, breathing life into the reader and taking life away from the reader. What happens when your loved one must live in a hospital? What would you do? How would you react? What happens when your loved one has only a bit of time to live? What would you do? How would you react? Kimball creates a world which silently, and sadly, asks these thought provoking questions--these questions that float and drift around as ghosts in the brain. This is a story of a husband and wife and their love for each other. But it's not as simple as that. There is this gentility and softness and purity that becomes some kind of being, and this being, by the end of the book, is us. It's love. It's death. It's sadness. It's happiness. It's hands. It's legs, and heads, and beds. It's clocks--it's boiling water.

The author provides a series of concrete images, but at the same, because of the depth and emotion and isolationism behind these descriptions, there is a surreal quality--a silent and lonely voice combined with hope and memories and passion. And these dreamlike tones can be found both at the hospital and at the couple's home. For example:

I whispered things into her ears so that she would remember how to talk and remember me and the things that we did together. I would say that we were going for a walk when I moved her legs and I would say that we were holding hands when I held onto her hands. I would tell her that was she was taking a bath in our bathtub. I would tell her that she was sitting up in a chair or looking out the window or brushing her hair. (58-59)

There is a gap here in what is actually happening and what is going on in the narrator's head, and it is in this gap where the sadness and the love exist--the dichotomy of dreams and reality. This same sadness and love can also be found when the husband and wife go back home:

But my wife wasn't getting any better anymore for those days that we were back home. She began to forget how to live in our house or with me anymore. She forgot what things were or what they were for. We made labels for the refrigerator and the food inside it, for the doors to the kitchen and our bedroom and the bathrooms, for the things that she used in the bathroom, and for the couch and the chairs and the other places where she could sit down. We wrote instructions out for the things that we used around our house--the telephone and the television, the microwave oven and the stove, the toilet and sinks. (93-94).

Again, in this gap, the reader sees the space between the normality of home life and the life of husband and wife coping with death and dying. These small actions, these little motions which take little thought in everyday life become a struggle. It is through these attempts to overcome these obstacles, the fragility, and, the wonder of love grows and grows, and it grows so much that by the end of the book, there will be dampened pages and salt.

by Michael Kimball
180 pages
ISBN 978-0615430461
Tyrant Books, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

j/j hastain, On Reading

"Reading as projection of sound--literal individual projection of one’s voice into space. We do this because we can’t make opera backwards (the voice swallowed inward)--I am saying what sweet gift and necessity, this projection. The auditory experience of sound emanating by way of our volition. The confidence we exhibit. A way to be both exact (expression) and exposed (expression in public)--

Also, reading as relation—a sweet inversion to projection, but not an opposite. The elation occurring as accrual in a solitude. The way we take in each other’s data and magnetize that data to our cells—to our ever upcoming bodies. I am saying that combination is how we become future versions of ourselves, and to say that this happens without the relation of each other is a fallacy. You write your book. I open your book and eat there. Morph there. Graft there. I tear the pages from your book and bury them with pages from another’s book. Then it rains. The soil compacts and tightens what once existed as space between our pages. I am saying we become progressive-we, this way. Through activisms related to our relational reading. Reading with the intent to fuse—for the sake of new profundities."

{j/j hastain lives in Colorado, USA with hir beloved. j/j is the author of numerous full-length, cross genre works, chaps, and artist's books: the ulterior eden, autobiography of my gender, prurient anarchic omnibus, we in my Trans, asymptotic lover//, our bodies....}

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marthe Reed, On Reading

"There is reading and then there is reading. To escape—stress, overwork, crazy life—reading a certain kind of novel takes me out, away, elsewhere. The fruits of sheer pleasure: Terry Prachett’s mad, parodic Disc World, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: 'You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it….From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.' Elizabeth’s fiercely righteous indignation, Austen’s glorious syntax, extending and extensive, the commas stringing together clauses, its delicious formality—disapprobation!

To read, rather, not seeking escape but a way into the words themselves, I want stillness all around me, a quietness into which the language enters slowly, shifting its way through conscious and unconscious, unfolding its sinuousity, its stutters, its musics: 'If the window was an assertion of injustice nonetheless / If a listener is uncertain                 (face the glass) / If the interior is a preoccupation / If there are events but first and last are meaningless' (Laura Mullen’s Dark Archive) – the language drawing me wandering/wondering into the questions and possibles it proposes.

Or, Will Alexander’s Compression and Purity:

The horizon scrawls itself as interior distillation
as interminate terminology
as floating ocular ravine

it remains
a parallel radiophony
a flashing sun in phantom waters
being aquatic in exhaustive sonar kingdoms

like exhausted solar feathers
parallel and subsumed

The images, always already other, reintroduce me to the world I inhabit – 'floating ocular ravine…like exhausted solar feathers.' Reading is an occasion, insists on activity or response. Requires a notebook, a writing implement, a place in which to sprawl with books open, lines spooling about me, sounds catching in my ears, setting my hand in motion. Reading initiates writing, becomes writing, unstops the pandoric box. Takes me into language."

Marthe Reed has published two books, Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink) and Gaze (Black Radish Books), as well as three chapbooks, (em)bodied bliss and zaum alliterations, and post*cards (a collaboration with j hastain), all in conjunction with the Dusie Kollektiv Series. Her poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, New Orleans Review, HOW2, MiPoesias, Exquisite Corpse, and Fairy Tale Review. She directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Visit her website here and visit Nous-zot Press here.}

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Emily St. John Mandel, On Reading

"I read in the evenings sometimes, but I do most of my reading on the subway. I have a long commute to and from my day job, and I read for the entire distance. On scattered mornings I'll occasionally forget my book, and there's a certain sinking dread when I realize that I've got nothing to read for the journey. Reading is partly an escape for me (I can't say I love spending 45 minutes in the subway every morning, and it's nice to escape into fiction), but it's also a means of connection; it makes me feel like I'm part of a community of readers."

{For more information about Emily St. John Mandel, please visit her website here.}

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Matthew Salesses, On Reading

"There is something about reading. I will waste plenty of time watching poorly made movies or tv shows, but I can't bring myself to waste a single minute on a book that does not enrich the act of reading."

Matthew Salesses is the author of Our Island of Epidemics, a hypertext and PANK little book, and the forthcoming, The Last Repatriate (Nouvella). He is the Fiction Editor for the Good Men Project Magazine.}

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

John Wray, On Reading

"I read between 8 and 12 books (mostly novels) at a time, which feed into a Robotron-like metanovel that's almost as frustrating and overcomplicated and self-contradictory as life itself. In other words, I spend a lot of time drinking beer and watching reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm."

{John Wray is the author, most recently, of the novel Lowboy. Follow his Twitter fiction experiment, 'Citizen', at}

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Greg Olear, On Reading

"I read in phases—I’ll get into good grooves where I devour a few books in a week, followed by dry spells where I can’t seem to focus on the books I’m trying to read, and leave them abandoned—and I am always always always happier when I’m in one of the former phases. Reading tends to relax me, while not reading has been known to bring on mild panic attacks."

Greg Olear is The Nervous Breakdown's senior editor and the author of the novels Totally Killer (Harper, 2009) and Fathermucker (Harper, 2011).}

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brian Oliu, On Reading

"My mother was a librarian and so after school each day I would get dropped off at the library. After finishing my homework and eating a snack bag of Doritos, I would start to read—it started off with all of the children’s books, before I progressed to the teen books, designated by a small black bookcase that was relatively low to the ground where one would find your Sweet Valley Highs, your Christopher Pikes. I moved onto the 'grown-up books'—first starting with the non-fiction books; favorites were ones that were about places and people: Sally Ride, Oregon, San Diego. As I got into my pre-teens I began reading the best sellers—the library was the smallest in the state of New Jersey and would often get only one copy of the book, which would be reserved well in advance by one of the patrons. This meant I would have between the time the book arrived and the time the person would come in to pick up the book to finish reading it; often sneaking into the back room to read as I suffered from horrible night terrors after reading Dean Koontz’ The Eyes of Darkness when I was eight and I did not want my mother finding out that I was reading something I shouldn’t. Most of the time I wasn’t able to finish the books in their entirety—I’d get a small snippet before someone came to pick it up, but it was enough to get a small sample of the plot and the language. Considering the majority of best sellers were thrillers or murder mysteries I would manage to scare myself half to death; not because of what was written, but because what I would imagine what happened next: a consequence of not 'drinking deep' and instead having my imagination fill the gaps with whatever horrible thing I could dream up.

The most memorable instance of reading what I wasn’t supposed to was when the summer reading lists would be sent to the county libraries in order to help students pick out what book they would most enjoy and to be prepared for a sudden surge of requests for Lois Lowry. There was a huge uproar because the books that were selected for the 7th going on 8th graders were considered to be highly inappropriate for the age bracket. Myself, not yet 12 years old, would overhear these conversations and immediately track down the books in question: A Clockwork Orange, 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale. These images of dystopian futures, oppression, and, especially in the case of Atwood, issues of gender and sexuality shocked and terrified me. The nightmares became more vivid, and now they had subtext!

As a result of this, my reading habits have not changed much since I was younger: I look for writing that informs, that introduces me to concepts and worlds that I can think about and pretend to exist within. I also look for writing that will shake me to the core, that gives me a visceral reaction: of language that causes my face to scrunch up, or to nod my head, or to cringe or smirk. To me, words are some sort of magic code—a series of letters that when put together in the right order cause someone to feel something. I think that is an absolutely amazing thing: that a series of words will give me chills or alter my thoughts. It’s a powerful and wonderful thing, and something I always keep in my mind when I do my own writing."

Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His collection of Tuscaloosa Craigslist Missed Connections, So You Know It's Me, will be published by Tiny Hardcore Press. His work appears in Hotel Amerika, New Ohio Review, Sonora Review, Puerto del Sol, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. For more information, visit his website here.}

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Theresa Senato Edwards, On Reading

"I’m not sure if I can say something about reading that hasn’t already been said. But here’s a bit of a story: I worried when I was a little girl. I had OCD and didn’t know it at the time; in fact, no one knew about OCD in the 1960s. So I worried, and one way I could let go of my worries was to have my mother read them. This was an exercise that my mother insisted I do when she could see a blank muteness forming in my little-girl face.

First, she would ask, 'What’s the matter?' Of course, I couldn’t respond. Then she would say, 'Well, write it down!' So I did. But the magic didn’t just come from writing my fears down on paper; it came when my mother read what I had written to her. Just remembering her say, 'Is that all? Oh, that’s normal; don’t worry about it' brings the power of reading back to me today. When my mother read what I had managed to quietly write to her, my most disturbing uncertainties that sometimes left me sweating like a woman in menopause seemed to dissipate into her calming face.

So for me, as a little girl, reading was just as important as writing. Even though I felt better after I released some of my woes onto paper, it wasn’t until after my mother read what I had written that the magic of words began and the ruminating that went on in my young brain stopped, at least, to help me through that concern, until the next one came along."

Theresa Senato Edwards’ first book of poems, Voices Through Skin, will be published June 2011 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Her second book just completed, Painting Czeslawa Kwoka ~ Honoring Children of the Holocaust, is a collaboration with Lori Schreiner. Work from this can be found online at AdmitTwo, Autumn Sky Poetry, elimae, Trickhouse, and BleakHouse Publishing. Theresa teaches and tutors at Marist College, is scholar-facilitator for the New York Council for the Humanities, and blogs at TACSE creations:}