Terese Svoboda is the author of sixteen books, six of them fiction, six of them poetry, one book of translation from the South Sudanese language Nuer, one memoir, When The Next Big War Blows Down The Valley: Selected and New Poems (Anhinga Press), and Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet, (Schaffner Press) out in January. Find out more about Terese on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Forget about constructing a bedside table out of old Legos, a fantasy I’ve had since the boys went away to college. Instead, after judging several contests, one nonfiction, one fiction, and one of both, I had the privilege of receiving many fabulous books that I didn’t have to find, but they did pile up——and up! My preferred method of reading books is as fast as they come in. I gobble. I like to finish two or three and then clear my palate with New Yorkers or The Paris Review. (This summer’s Paris Review was really great.) But judging these contests, I choked. Soon there was no bedside table, and now I’m considering giving up on excavation and just building a new one out of books.
Here are a few that I’m thinking about for the legs because they are so fabulous: All the Happiness You Deserve by Michael Piafsky, perfectly written, about abandonment, early tragedy, girlfriends, and money; Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis who does amazing jazz riffs with the dialogue without losing the reader; and Marie NDiaye‘s Self-Portrait in Green, a very weird but great——and short——memoir. Not to my taste but fabulously executed was Bret Anthony Johnston‘s Remember Me Like This about what happens after an abducted child is returned. I’ve just done the opening chapter so far of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Why did I wait? Every paragraph is gripping. A Shakespearean actor falters and a CPR guy vaults on stage to try to revive him. And then there’s Dao Strom‘s very sharp The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys: Stories, complex and artful long short stories about far more than the experience of a Vietnamese refugee in the U.S. I’m looking forward to her new one, We Were Meant To Be a Gentle People. I’m pretty sure there won’t be much gentle in this one either. Subtle, yes. I have also almost finished this year’s African Poetry Book Series, chapbooks so beautifully packaged I already want next year’s. They’d be great to scatter on top of my new table.
I’ve just finished a first pass on a new novel about harpies and am looking forward to seeing how drafty it is. My dreams, after closing any one of these books, are still all about flying.
If there’s a world literature section on your bookshelf, what cultures are represented? What attracts you to them?