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Monday, August 7, 2006

I'm going to have to think about these.

1. One book that changed your life?

Huh. The first book of grown-up poems I owned was The Collected Poems of Robert Frost, which I found in one of the stepdad's boxes in the garage, a holdover from his grad school days I guess. I got rid of it later. Then bought another one just like it. When my thuggy little skater punk boyfriend stole The Waste Land and Other Poems for me from Walden Books in the mall in 1986 or so it was the first time anybody recognized that poetry was "my thing." I still have it. The somewhat-successful-indie-rocker boyfriend also nicked a book for me as a birthday gift: The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss. (Always liked Seuss's rhymes and silliness (though that one's not so silly, admittedly), including my favorite as a kid, Oh the Thinks You Can Think.) Looking back at college I felt like I was alone with books most of the time, though that's not true, actually. Read diaries & biographies, trying to figure out how to do what I wanted to do. I bought a beat-to-hell copy of The Collected Poems of Pablo Neruda at a library sale in San Miguel de Allende that I saw as a kind of emblem for what/how, as dorky as that sounds. Still have it. It's been repaired with tape several times. It looks like shit. Couple years later, when S and I first got together, we drove from Austin to DFW and from DFW to southeast TX to introduce our couplehood to the parents. That's 12 hours in the car, easy. He read to me while I drove because we had no stereo: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, a used paperback copy I'd found at Half-Price Books. After we moved to NYC that first year we had to sell most of our books when we were broke (which was always) but then I got the job at Big Coporate Publishers and that came with pretty great fringe benefit: I could order review copies of anything I wanted. That chunky-ass paperback of collected Auden found itself in the street after some teen thugs on Ludlow street (1995) shot out our bedroom window with a pellet gun. The glass was already broken, and it was the biggest heavable thing I could find to retaliate with. The gesture was ridiculous. It had glass embedded in the pages. I replaced that one with a hardcover. Oh I'm totally cheating, I know. One--I can't do it. I'm not even talking about influence here, which would be one way to come at this question. In all of these cases, the importance of each book derived more from its context than its content, from the fact that each was Other than what I had before, Better than what I had without, and each deepened the significance of moments or periods that were already significant for me. This still happens with me & books. That makes me lucky.

2. One book you have read more than once?

I feel too anxious about all I am never going to have time to read to repeat many novels or nonfiction books, unless I'm writing on them or doing some kind of research. But I read practically every poetry collection I like two or three times. Isn't that some kind of rule? On repeat: the collecteds of Frank O'Hara, Wallace Stevens, and everything Gertrude Stein. That list might be boring, but they're not. Ashbery too, early more than late. I'm sure the collected Koch will become shabby with thumbing.

That said, I never want to read The Scarlet Letter again. I was assigned that book no less than 6 times between 9th grade and college graduation.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

I guess I can't take the internet? Crap.

Wait, are there any of these left? Haven't the melting glaciers submerged them all?

Could write in sand. Repurpose island as giant dry-erase board.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Don Quixote (Modern Library Smollet trans.)

There are others. I laugh lots. Laughing is my favorite. It feels so good. (The pure stuff. Schadenfreude causes indigestion. Eventually.)

But this book makes me guffaw. Wide mouth. All the teeth. Belly laughs. Oh, the don he is a poet and his delusions relevance.

Also, (some of) Jennifer Knox's poems make me laugh. I'm obviously inflating my own reputation as an editor by saying that because that's just how I am.

5. One book that made you cry?

Hmm. This happens rarely with poetry. Biographies make me cry, well, because of how they end. I bawled like a baby when I read Elizabeth Bishop's final letter, written just hours before she wilted. Anna Karenina. Too many novels to count.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Anne Boyer's first book. Katie Degentesh's first book. Oh nevermind. . . yay!

There are several yet-to-be-written books between us in this house. Hoping for those.

7. One book you wish had never been written?

I will be sent straight to a hell I don't believe in for saying it. So I'll come up with something more controversial.

I haven't yet come up with anything. There's plenty of crap, but you know, whatevs. Even the worst book is instructive.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I'm in the center narrative, about to move into the russian-dolled endings.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

I'm a fraud! This question gives me palpitations! I've read nothing!

Currently I've got more to-be-read piles than I know how to approach. Right now I'm tired & distracting myself with fiction, which is more fun in that I don't automatically want to take it all apart to see how it works.

10. To whom would you pose these questions?


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