Lizzie Stark is a journalist whose work has appeared on the Today Show website, io9.com and the Daily Beast. She is the founder and editor of the literary journal Fringe. Her first book is Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games, published on May 1, 2012, by Chicago Review Press.
On your nightstand now:
America Pacifica by Anna North, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I read and re-read the Little House books as a kid--learning how the pioneers lived from day to day fascinated me. Who wouldn't want to make snow candy, bat around an inflated pig's bladder, trap fish at the bottom of a waterfall or twist hay into logs during an epic blizzard?
Your top five authors:
Right now? Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Jeannette Walls and Isabelle Allende. But it changes from month to month.
Book you've faked reading:
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I was supposed to read it in grad school, but the novel's gender dynamics just didn't sit right with me (and made me muse on the lack of novels by women on the "Best of the year/decade/century/ages"). I got so mad I couldn't finish. I realize that McCarthy has some awesome craft going for him and that it's not fair to make a single book take the blame for the larger issue. Still, the problem gnawed at me so much that I did the only honorable thing; I faked sick on the day of the discussion and pretended to have read it for the rest of the semester.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I adore Rikki Ducornet's book The Fountains of Neptune, which is from a tetrology she wrote based on the four ancient elements. It's got everything; pirates, monkeys, comas, deep emotion, war, love and surreal imagery, all delivered to the writer in sleek, affecting prose.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. The cover's white matte simplicity screamed LITERATURE to me, and I felt very grownup reading during lunch breaks at my first job, in high school.
Book that changed your life:
Virginia Woolf's The Waves. I could feel Woolf talking to me when I read that book, articulating things about my lived experience that I had thought were incommunicable and beyond expression.
In a profoundly personal way, that book made me feel understood; it made me feel like my innate oddities weren't strange, but merely human. I read The Waves in my early 20s, when I was struggling to figure out who I was; seeing what I perceived as my own experience represented in literature felt very powerful.
Favorite line from a book:
Here's one that stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading:
"They want me to tell them my name, my address, my social security number; they want to open me up like a package and crawl around inside and find out exactly what's wrong with me and fix it and love it and I don't know why the hell they don't lay off." --from My Date with Satan by Stacey Richter
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Gabrielle Burton's Heartbreak Hotel. I loved that book for its feminism, its surreal premise--a half-dozen women live together in a house as curators of the metaphysical Museum of the Revolution, which features such rooms as the waiting room, which women enter when they are waiting for their hair to set, the pregnancy test to come back, their husbands to come home, their nails to dry, etc.
Plus, it's hilarious. And that's a great virtue for a book to have.