Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rachel DeWoskin, Author of REPEAT AFTER ME, On Her Favorite Books and Authors

Rachel DeWoskin, author of the new novel Repeat After Me, is interviewed in today's Shelf Awareness "Book Brahmin" column:

On your nightstand now: Nabokov's Speak, Memory, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. These are all books I'm teaching right now in my memoir class at New York University, so I'm joyfully re-reading them. And Yu Hua's new novel, Brothers, is also next to the bed, first on my end-of-the-semester list.

Favorite book when you were a child: Charlotte's Web. My mom read that to me hundreds of times. I have a visceral memory of hearing it for what must have been the 200th time when I was a little kid on an overnight train across China. And although I couldn't have articulated this then, that book was America for me, was home--animals, ice cubes, fireworks, fairs. It was so familiar and comforting that it encompassed my entire country and culture. All the colors and words and feelings I knew best.

Your top five authors: Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov and Annie Proulx.

Book you've faked reading: Oooh. I pretended to have read Moby Dick for 10 years until I finally read it (which took me approximately another 10 years).

Book you are an evangelist for: Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. Let me propagandize/count the ways. It is the most original book I've read. It boils over with brilliance and slays me each time I re-read it, which I do at least twice a year since I include it on every syllabus I teach, no matter what the genre, semester, student population or school. Autobiography of Red is a shimmering everything--history, love story, poem, novel, essay, biography, autobiography--it's academic, romantic, political, wildly imaginative and heart shattering. My students weep, shout, sit stunned and silent, fight, analyze, memorize, imitate and then write their best work either about or because of it--consistently.

Book you've bought for the cover: Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware. Have you seen that cover? It has as much work in it as most books manage in their 300 pages . . . not to mention that the story is epic, graphic and staggering.

Book that changed your life: Angle of Repose. Wallace Stegner's writing let me understand time.

Favorite line from a book: Probably Nabokov's "Fill up the page, Printer." (From Lolita.)

Book you most want to read again for the first time: The Brothers Karamazov. The first time I read that, I sat clutching it for hundreds of pages at a time until my eyes spiraled. I took irritating breaks to eat and sleep briefly before racing back in. Fun!

No comments: