Scott Sparling's debut, Wire to Wire, a crime novel set in Michigan in the '70s, was just published (Tin House, May 24, 2011). Sparling is originally from Michigan and now lives near Portland, Ore., with his wife and son.
On your nightstand now:
My nightstand is a disaster. I need a long period of bed rest--perhaps another bout of meningitis or maybe a knee injury--to deal with the stacks. I'm part way through 1974 by David Peace. But then Alan Heathcock's Volt came out and I had to start that. Kaboom by Matt Gallagher has a bookmark in it. That would be enough, but then I went on a trip and brought home Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule. I've lost track of what's at the bottom of the piles, though I'm pretty sure there's a book of Jim Harrison's poems in there somewhere. On the plus side, I can no longer see the clock alarm.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Nothing springs to mind, to be honest. I read a lot of Thornton W. Burgess and Nancy Drew, but mainly because they were around. Books didn't become a force in my life until my high school girlfriend starting giving me things to read. How about my favorite books when my son was a child? Hank the Cowdog and anything Jim Weiss read on tape.
What books did your high school girlfriend give you?
I remember three: The Kama Sutra, Siddhartha and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. I didn't know what to make of the Kama Sutra with all its lingam and yoni stuff. I pretended to like Siddhartha, of course, in the hopes of one day gaining access to my girlfriend's yoni. But One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest lit up my brain. It was the first time a book really got a hold of me. It made me want to read.
Your top five authors:
What makes someone a favorite author? Should the criteria be, I'd read anything they write. In that case, Robert Stone, E.L. Doctorow, Stephen Wright, David Foster Wallace and, and... others. Like Martin Amis or Denis Johnson or--see, this is where the question becomes impossible. If you asked me this later, the answer might be Robert Stone and four others. But always Stone.
Book you've faked reading:
The Da Vinci Code for one. Just reading the first sentence of most paragraphs will get you through it. It was so popular, I thought it was important to see what he was doing. And I did learn some things from it. I also skimmed a lot of The Lovely Bones. It didn't really take--obviously there's something very wrong with me.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Dispatches by Michael Herr, not that it needs any help from me. Rules of '48 by Jack Cady, my first teacher--part novel, part memoir, part essay, with great characters and language all the way through. Once in a while I find someone who doesn't know about Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin yet, and I do my part to set them straight.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Adultery and Other Choices by Andres Dubus--the edition with the black-and-white photo of an unmade bed. The stories easily lived up to promise of the cover. If I knew nothing about her, I might well have bought Joanna Rose's Little Miss Strange just for the cover, though I didn't.
Book that changed your life:
The Pursuit of Loneliness by Phillip Slater. I read it in college and its critique of the way sex, love and happiness are warped by the economy shaped a lot of my views. Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone is the most dog-eared book I own. I think I have three copies, and I expect to need more.
Favorite line from a book:
Can anyone really answer this question? A single favorite line? Anything I quote seems unfair to a hundred other brilliant lines. I like to quote Jim Harrison's "More than this I cannot do," but it's not from a book. It was his way of telling me not to put my unfinished manuscript in his mailbox again, back when he lived in Michigan.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I'd give the Kama Sutra another chance.
Most recent "crossover" book:
My wife and I have different reading tastes, so a crossover book in our house is one that goes from my nightstand to hers or vice versa. Only a couple books a year make that journey. Most recently: The Local News by Miriam Gershow. The voice, structure and narrative strategy blew me away. I put it on my wife's stack, and she got hooked as well. Bonus: I consider myself redeemed for not getting The Lovely Bones.
Line in your novel inspired by another writer:
"Rose rose." It's a trick line, obviously, and I expected it to be cut, but it wasn't. Inspired by a Richard Ford line from either The Ultimate Good Luck or A Piece of My Heart, in which a character drinks from his drink. The repetition of the word with a different meaning struck me as a brilliant and confident stance against those who think no word can be used twice. And unlike my little homage, Ford wasn't being tricky--he was just using language the way we humans use it.