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:}

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sean Kilpatrick, On Reading

"I bring reading nothing and just let. To my disadvantage and need. If I’m still thinking, sentences don’t crackle. What’s between sentences? Blackout the language. Plot and heart and character rounding, risk and personal straight-forward real, the truth, style doesn’t matter, what over how, an audience, okay, traditional friendly artifice techniques surely, yes, get earned, practiced right, by people not me. But morality and art live no same life. There’s no right way ever. Risk and pulse only line all advancements for no advance called lit. If it gowns with excretion, if no certain chastisement of insanity smells, thank you. I need no meant benefit to a page."

Sean Kilpatrick is published in New York Tyrant, No Colony, Fence, Columbia Poetry Review and LIT. Blogs here. First book is forthcoming from Blue Square Press.}

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sarah Rose Etter, On Reading

"I have to read. If I didn't read, I'd lose it. I'd end up doing something wild. I'd go into a 7-11, steal all the Slurpee mix, scream WHERE ARE MY BOOKS. I'd smash all the beef jerky boxes and scratch off all the lotto tickets. I'd smash every single Snickers bar with my fists and kick the hot dog warmer over. I don't care. Just give me my books."

Sarah Rose Etter's chapbook, Tongue Party, is now available for pre-order from Caketrain Press. Her work has appeared in The Collagist, PANK Magazine and is forthcoming from Matter Press. Find out more at}

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dylan Landis, On Reading

"We always told our son: if it's printed matter and you want it, we'll buy it. Everything else had limits. But if it could be read under the covers with a flashlight and he wanted it, we bought it, no questions asked. The flashlight, too.

I read to be someone else for a while. I read to commit crimes, get into fights, fall in love, experience grace, survive shame, take insane risks and overcome troubles. I read to die and come back. Always, I read to be a better writer. I read because Song of Solomon is the only way to spend time with Pilate Dead; I've visited her twelve times.

For a long time my son read to learn how race car engines worked. Every night in eighth grade he went to bed with a college auto-shop textbook and a pad of Post-its. He reads, I think, to gain mastery, which I really admire. I read for transformation."

{Dylan Landis is the author of Normal People Don't Live Like This (Persea Books), a novel-in-stories. She has published fiction in Bomb, Tin House, Best American Nonrequired Reading and elsewhere, and has won a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and other awards. For more information, visit her website here.}

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Susan Henderson, On Reading

"I’ve read to my children since they were in diapers—not just at bedtime, but mornings in the hammock, afternoons in the sandbox, and evenings in the bathtub while they sailed little plastic boats in the bubbles. Reading time connected us to each other and to the larger world.

My kids learned early-on that books are where secrets are told—what children really think about when they’re alone, what parents worry about in the next room, why a stingy old man cries out in fear in the middle of the night. Books gave us some of our best laughs (seeing how fast we could read the Tweetle Beetle Battle without getting tongue-tied) and some of our best cries (waiting with the Velveteen Rabbit for the bonfire).

Books are where everything is possible—babies are raised by wolves, hearts thump beneath the floorboards, little girls make balloons from pig bladders. You can stand in the shoes of an orphan or a bully, you can clap your hands to bring a fairy back to life, you can make a witch believe you’re too thin to eat, you can travel far from home—to farms and cities and battlefields, to Whoville and Panem and outer space.

My kids are now teenagers, but I still read to them many nights a week—The Hobbit, Don Quixote, The Graveyard Book, the Disc World series. We are just finishing Huck Finn, and they were wide-eyed at the idea of a boy having to run for safety from his own father and fascinated by the pranks he pulled off. They also notice how I’ve struggled with the language in the book, even though I’ve told them it’s important that it's in there.

Sometimes as I’m reading to my kids, I think about when they were little and wearing their superhero pajamas, their feet all twitchy during storytime. I think of the things that didn’t exist in our world before we read about them, like muggles, thneeds, heffalumps, and dementors. And I think of what reading has cemented between us—a chance for us all to say without having to actually say it, Stay close a little while longer."

Susan Henderson is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award, and her work has — twice — been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel, Up From The Blue, was published by HarperCollins in 2010 and is now in its fourth printing. She blogs at LitPark and The Nervous Breakdown.}

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

James Magruder, On Reading

"The first book I ever read: The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.

The last book I read: Kiss Me, Stranger by Ron Tanner.

The next book I am going to read: Ocean State by Jean McGarry.

One book I was too young for when I first read it: The Magic Mountain.

Two books that I had become too old for when I re-read them: Vanity Fair and The Catcher in the Rye.

Two books that I can never get past the first chapter of: The Castle and The Trial.

One book that I have read more times than is good for me: A Confederacy of Dunces.

One book that was absolutely worth the wait: David Copperfield.

Writers I'm ashamed not to have read a word of: Kerouac, Pynchon, (Cormac) McCarthy, Mailer, Trevor, Lessing, Murdoch, Musil.

Writers I expect I'll never return to: James, Faulkner, Woolf, Hemingway.

One writer worth picking up midway along the path: Conrad.

One book I must return to: Anna Karenina."

{James Magruder's debut novel, Sugarless (University of Wisconsin Press), was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and the 2010 William Saroyan International Writing Prize. He has also published stories, and he has a second book coming out in 2012. He has done some interesting theatre work as well. For more information, visit his website at}

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jessica Anya Blau, On Reading

"When I was little, I’d lie in my sister’s bed and my dad would read to us. I always fell asleep before he stopped, so the next night there would be some gap in the story that I’d have to figure out as he read forward again.

My mother read every day and I loved to lie beside her, on the bed or on the couch, and snuggle against her, my head tucked below her book. Once, I asked her how she was able to read without moving her lips. When I read, my lips always moved.

I read to my daughters from the day they were born. Even as wobble-headed infants with murky eyes and bird-like cries, they seemed interested in books. It was both wonderful and painful when they started reading themselves. Now I’ll ask them, 'How about if I read to you tonight?' They laugh and don’t even consider the idea."

Jessica Anya Blau’s second novel, Drinking Closer To Home (HarperCollins/Harper Perennial), is currently being featured in Target stores as a “Breakout Author” book. Her first novel, The Summer Of Naked Swim Parties, was picked as Best Summer Book by The Today Show, The New York Post and New York Magazine. The San Francisco Chronicle, along with other newspapers, chose it as one of the Best Books of the Year.}

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ben Loory, On Reading

"Reading is useless unless it's the equivalent of having someone shove you out a window."

Ben Loory's fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, Wigleaf, and The Antioch Review. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is coming July 26, 2011, from Penguin Books.}

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Dermot Woods, On Reading

"I read to disrupt myself. The more I read, the less sure I am that I get it. That's the healthiest thing I can imagine. But we're wired to abide by systems, and systems are often what save and maintain us. There's something about the rapture of reading that allows the system to fall apart, or at least allows us to see the system, and thereby dismantle it. Reading moves me very far from the comfortable world that I know and largely control."

{John Dermot Woods is the author of the novel The Complete Collection of people, places & things. He writes stories and draws comics in Brooklyn, NY. He edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes and organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast. He is a professor in the English Department at Nassau Community College on Long Island. For more information, visit his website here.}

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Steve Himmer, On Reading

"Reading has always been my grab bag of the world, and a way to indulge my obsessive curiosities. I've become fascinated by a country, and read everything of its literature I could track down. I've latched onto a subject like Arctic exploration or mushrooms or hermits and consumed every book on the topic for no reason other than satiating my wonder. I read to ask and be asked questions, to imagine and understand the world in new ways, and whether that happens through fiction or poetry or history or memoir doesn't matter as much as feeling like a book and its author are as curious about the world as I am."

Steve Himmer is the author of The Bee-Loud Glade and the editor of Necessary Fiction.}

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ani Smith, On Reading

"I read because it is the healthiest and most inexpensive way of temporarily escaping the awfulness of being myself, and with every book a tiny bit more of me is changed, I hope, for the better."

Ani Smith is an American writer living in London. Her chapbook, this love is office lighting (great and harsh but always off when no one’s there), is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. She co-edits We Who Are About To Die.}

Monday, April 4, 2011

James Greer, On Reading

"I don't read so much as re-read. And I re-read promiscuously. I won't let go of a novel, for instance, until I think I've extracted its essence. Until I can draw a map of its fictional world -- in my head at least, I'm a poor cartographer -- I'm not convinced I've understood anything about the thing at all. I'll do this whether I'm writing -- I'm always writing -- or not. It's as silly to say that reading influences writing as to say that drinking orange juice influences gardening. The two are unrelated. But I can't do without either."

{James Greer is the author of The Failure (Akashic, 2010) and Artificial Light (LHotB/Akashic, 2006).}

Sean Ferrell, On Reading

"Writing without reading is like flying without an airplane. You could probably do it, but you have to work like hell and failure is both likely and tragic. Reading is a writer’s engine. Reading is a writer’s wings.

Reading wraps a writer in the comfort of knowing he is not alone. In reading, you find yourself in another’s words. You find so many great thoughts holding hands that they drape over you and become your own. In reading, you find yourself cherishing the idea that working hard, alone, in a solitary craft, makes you feel more connected than anything you might do in a crowd.

Reading lets a writer find her blade-thin path. You find your thoughts, only not. You find your loves, or almost. This book, that poem, those plays, they say what you would say… but not quite. In reading, a writer can find that her voice hasn’t been heard. In reading, a writer can find her place in the choir."

{Sean Ferrell is the author of Numb. For more information, visit his website here.}

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Grady Tripp | Writing

Vernon Hardapple: Why did you keep writing this book if you didn't even know what it was about?

Grady Tripp: I couldn't stop.

Wonder Boys
Directed by Curtis Hanson
107 minutes

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jordan Castro, On Reading

"In 6th grade, I noticed similarities between punk rock and politics, so I became obsessed with politics. In 8th grade, I noticed similarities between politics and literature, so I became obsessed with literature. In 10th grade, I noticed similarities between literature and drugs, so I became obsessed with drugs. In 11th grade, I noticed similarities between drugs and rap music, so I became obsessed with rap music. Now, I still don’t know anything about anything but I read all the time to explore it.

If reading means anything to me, I think it means meaning can be found in anything, but will be found in something, so it might as well be reading.

Or, no – I don’t know.

I think I might’ve just made that up.

I don’t think I feel able to write anything 'true' about reading because, to me, reading is not concerned with 'truth.' I enjoy reading as a means of exploring, I think, not defining. Ideally, I think I’d enjoy life in this manner too. I really don’t know. I just typed 'I think I’m just retarded' then deleted it and thought a little about Stephen Elliot in a manner like I meant to think about something else but 'accidentally' thought about Stephen Elliot instead."

Jordan Castro (b. 1992) is the co-author of Cute (Thumbscrews Press, 2011) and two other chapbooks. He is the author of Supercomputer (Deckfight Press, 2011) and two other e-books. He maintains a blog and a twitter account.}

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tania Hershman, On Reading

"Reading is my comfort and my stimulation, taking me away and bringing me home. Being read has shown me how each reader reads alone, in their own way, and each reader puts themselves inside the word of worlds according to their own selves. Reading constantly changes my writing, I am inspired by shapes and arrangements of words on the page - and yes, for me, it is the printed page, it may always be. I can't imagine being a writer without reading. If I haven't read for several days the thirst starts to well up."

Tania Hershman is the author of The White Road And Other Stories. For more information, visit her website here.}