|photo: Heather Kraft
Ethan Rutherford's fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction and The Best American Short Stories, and he has received grants from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. He received his MFA in fiction from the University of Minnesota, and has taught creative writing at Macalester, the University of Minnesota and the Loft Literary Center. A former bookseller at Three Lives & Co. and at Magers & Quinn, Rutherford lives in Minneapolis, where he is the guitarist for the band Pennyroyal. His book The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories was published May 7, 2013 by Ecco.
On your nightstand now:
I am a nightstand book-piler: books I'm rereading or am looking forward to reading. On there now: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; a galley copy of Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (which will be published in August and is stunning); The Search for the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis; Fat City by Leonard Gardner; and Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter (I have a one-year-old son, it's a book about eating). There's a lamp on there too, but it's been gently suggested I start using a book-light, or else. Sleep is precious around here these days.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Twelve Labors of Hercules--I could not tell you the edition nor the author/translator, but if I could draw with any skill, I'm sure I could replicate the cover exactly. For a year, this was the only book I checked out from my school's library, and I checked it out every week (the librarian raising her eyebrows--again?--as she stamped the due-date on the card). I've looked everywhere for this book, the remembered edition of this book, but with no luck.
Your top five authors:
Impossible! But right now, and most recently: Joan Didion, Richard Hughes, Daphne du Maurier, Stanislaw Lem and Keith Richards.
Book you've faked reading:
I've never read an Updike novel. And I do feel bad about that. I've tried, but can never seem to get around to it. Has that stopped me from nodding my head in agreement when at a party someone says Rabbit at Rest is so vastly superior to Rabbit, Run? It has not. I don't even know if that's something to nod at.
Book you're an evangelist for:
One of my favorite parts of working in a bookstore (Three Lives & Co, in New York) was this exact thing: you could be an evangelist for any book you'd ever read. There was no pressure to sell a particular title, you had your taste, and that was that. People would come in, and if, say, Carol, wasn't there, they wouldn't ask for your recommendations, because they wanted to hear only from her. So for me, at that time: Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje; Love & Hydrogen by Jim Shepard; Oman Ra by Victor Pelevin; Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald; Birds of America by Lorrie Moore; At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel; anything by Charles Portis. Right now, it's A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes, which was a recommendation from my friend Paul Yoon, and, along with a line from Ghostbusters, was the book that gave me the epigraph for my collection.
What were the lines from A High Wind in Jamaica?
"Good morning," said Emily politely.
"Smells like an earthquake," said Margaret, and dressed.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Bought it for the cover and stayed for the story, which was simply amazing (another book I've become an evangelist for).
Book that changed your life:
You mean in addition to The Twelve Labors of Hercules? Here's the thing: the act of reading changes your life, sometimes in large ways, sometimes in small ways, but every book you read asks you to move outside of yourself and your own experience to consider the lives of others. So I can't identify a particular book that altered my life, but I do know that the act of reading has pushed me to engage more deeply with the world (real and imagined), and I'm grateful for that.
Favorite line from a book:
"Don't look now," John said to his wife, "but there are a couple of old girls two tables away who are trying to hypnotize me." --from the opening of "Don't Look Now" by Daphne du Maurier.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I've found that re-reading a favorite book is, for me, often similar to reading it for the first time--you just notice different things, and are surprised and submerged by different threads. We just had our first kid, though, and I will say that there is one book I cannot wait to read together: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Followed closely by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and The Twelve Labors of Hercules, wherever that book may be.