Suzy Vitello’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, Plazm, Tarpaulin Sky, various anthologies and other literary journals. She has been a prize winner in The Atlantic Monthly Student Fiction Contest, and has been a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts grant. She holds an MFA from Antioch, Los Angeles, and is a long-time coordinator of and participant in an infamous workshop in Portland, whose members, past and present, include Chuck Palahniuk, Lidia Yuknavitch, Cheryl Strayed, Chelsea Cain, Monica Drake and others. She is the author of The Moment Before, The Empress Chronicles, and a chapbook of short stories, Unkiss Me. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, son, and a dog named Ruby. For more info, visit her website.
I divide my “reading” time into a couple different categories. Lately, thanks to an accidental Audible account, each month I get “credits” to download another novel I can hear performed via earbuds on my walks, and, as my middle-aged eyes have become strained with all the screen and page work I do, I’ve come to enjoy the experience of being read to.
The other category is actual reading. From books. In the paper form. The pile of books by my bed is admittedly quite small these days, but I usually knock off a few pages before my husband implores me to click off the light. Some nights though, when I can’t sleep, I cram in the earbuds (also a staple next to the bed) and plug the cord into my iPhone for a bedtime story installment.
The latest novel that kept me company as I trekked through the woods and up and down hills, and in the wee hours of sleeplessness, was You, by Caroline Kepnes. Maybe what intrigued me most about this book was the clever pairing of narrator to novel. You is narrated by Santino Fontana, and he perfectly captures the tone and bravado of a creepy, sociopathic stalker. Warning: this book is disturbing. And there is no “likeability” or even “relatability” when it comes to our anti-hero, Joe Goldberg, but the suspense and the gallows humor combine to create this deft masterpiece – and because Joe works in a bookstore, and the object of his obsession is an MFA student, there’s all sorts of writerly insider stuff similar to the last season of HBO’s Girls.
Before You, I Audibled Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. Another suspense-filled novel divided into two narratives. I absolutely loved how Groff withheld certain key information in the first POV, allowing the reader to form a half-truth. I won’t spoil this, but if you read (or listen to) this novel, don’t give up! The second half was by far my favorite, and fleshes out the characters and their situations to complete satisfaction.
The loose stack of books currently on my nightstand are “nuggets” rather than long-form saga-type reads. The Everything Essential German Book is a holdover from a class I took earlier in the year. It helped to put me in a certain colloquial mindset as I wrote my last book, The Keepsake (here’s an excerpt). Plus, you never know when you might have a nocturnal desire to pronounce the word heißen correctly.
Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life is another research book (on loan from Chelsea Cain). I’m working on a collection of Victorian novellas (spicy, and definitely not YA) that I’m writing under a pseudonym. At Home is sort of a history buff’s version of Cribs, perhaps, offering fun facts and intimate tidbits about the private lives of the Victorians.
Finally, I have to let you all know about Kevin Maloney’s hilarious and heartbreaking novella, Cult of Loretta. It’s a collection of interlinked stories surrounding the narrator’s obsession with a young woman named, duh, Loretta! It takes place in the unvarnished world of ‘90s Portland – before the hipsters and the legal pot and haute cuisine food carts. And it’s so good!