Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Reading Three Books at a Time

Reading has had an outsized importance in my family life. 
I became an avid reader as a child,
and have not really stopped, although 
sometimes I have slowed down a little.
I married an English teacher, and then I became a librarian.
This is my husband reading to the oldest daughter of our younger son
about ten years ago.

From an interview with the writer
John Brantingham

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

John: These change as the conditions of my life change. I love books that I can come back to again and again and give me the message that I need. For a long time in my childhood James and the Giant Peach was important to me. I know that sounds strange, but I was the ultimate lonely child, and this was a book about gaining friends and having adventures. When I was older, I read and reread Graham Greene’s novels, especially when I was struggling with issues of identity and religion. Raymond Carver is someone I return to and Andres Dubus too. As for poets, I love E.E. Cummings, Sharon Olds, Donna Hilbert, and so many people I can’t mention them all.

Mentors have been and remain important to me. I think some of the people who were important to me don’t know that they were. My first early mentor was my older brother Mark, who has the same love and talent for writing as I do. I nearly failed out of high school because I was hard of hearing and got no help, and I was severely depressed. I came to college thinking that I would probably waste a couple of years and get some kind of job that needed little or no competence and maybe write for myself. Community college saved me, and the professors there showed me that I had value, especially Pam Arterburn and Robin Tripp. Later, my M.F.A. experience shaped me and the kind of work ethic and writer I wanted to be. Suzanne Greenberg, Ray Zepeda, and Gerald Locklin really taught me how to write.

Fiona: What book are you reading now?

John: I always read three books at a time. I’m rereading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie right now because I want to write the story of Pomona, California, and I wanted to review how he structured his story of India. Besides, who doesn’t adore Rushdie. I’m also reading Ellen Bass’s new poetry collection and a Bill Dix novel by Chris Swinney. Chris is a good friend and a great writer. I love his work.

The source of these quotes is the interview with John Brantingham found at this link.

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