Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. The Merrill Diaries (Pure Slush Books, July 2013) is a novel in stories that begins in 1976 and follows a 21-year-old Merrill for a decade, over two continents and multitudinous adventures involving hit men, hookers, psychics, love, lust, and the music business. Tepper shares a Pulitzer Prize nomination (with co-author Gary Percesepe) for their epistolary novel What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollack & Dori G. Additionally she has received nine Pushcart Prize nominations. Her story “Distance” is on the notable stories list for storySouth Million Writers Award, 2013. Tepper is a contributing editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the author/book interviews UNCOV/rd. FIZZ, her reading series at KGB Bar in NYC, has been ongoing sporadically for 6 years.
Because my writer brain is on even-split mode between fiction and poetry, I have a pile of both on my hammered-tin bed table from Morocco (purchased at HomeGoods, as I’m still waiting to get to Morocco). I also have books on the floor, on my dresser, and on a green wicker chair near the window.
Hands Collected: The Books of Simon Perchik Poems: 1949 – 1999 is Perchik’s opus that will stay with me ’til my croaking end, which could be soon at the rate things are going. Just kidding, though there are a few contracts out on me (not two book deals either)! Perchik is my poet of choice, hands down, hands collected, hands clapping. He gets into the soul-soil in every poem and just annihilates me. I also have his brand new book Almost Rain which sits nicely on top of Hands Collected. As if the hands are holding the rain.
William Trevor: The Collected Stories taught me how to write fiction. Though we are thematically different, I learned about clean writing and truth from Trevor’s work, that each story must tell some profound truth if the protagonist and supporting cast are to come alive on the page. Trevor never fails me.
Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself, a biography by Jerome Loving, keeps my poet faith alive. I grew up just a mile or so from the Walt Whitman House in Huntington, Long Island. My mom used to take us on walks past his house to buy candy from a tiny local farm stand kind of store. She would say, “That’s where the famous poet Walt Whitman used to live.” It was all so beautifully overgrown and peeling paint, back then, before the restorers stepped in. I’ve been reading this biography slowly, for a decade now. It is long at 568 pages. But I think I don’t want it to end.
Memoir from Antproof Case, a novel by Mark Helprin, is another book I’ve been reading for a long time. I have it in hardcover, first printing, and the book is this beautiful thing made to look like rough beige texture (an antproof case) and tied both ways in mock-string. I have a deep feeling for the story and for the book itself. I also like boxes and cases a lot, and this book exemplifies all that. Plus it’s a hell of a good tale.
So here you have my split brain offering up half fiction and half poetry. Many more books reside at my bedside, but these are the books I’d like to share right now.
Do you cross-pollinate, or do you tend to stick with one genre? What’s your favorite category?