|photo: Jeffery Gleaves
Kristen Radtke, marketing and publicity director for Sarabande Books, is also a writer and illustrator who is working on a graphic novel. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and lives in New York. Find her criticism online at the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Oxford American, Huffington Post and the Rumpus. She tweets @kristenradtke.
On your nightstand now:
I've read the graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki three times in the past two days. The word "beautiful" is woefully insignificant. Everyone should read it immediately.
Favorite book when you were a child:
All I wanted to do as a kid was read and draw. I hated sports or being outdoors and preferred the quiet of my room. I remember going on summer vacations to lakes throughout the Midwest with my family and intentionally getting badly sunburnt on the first day so that I had an excuse to sit inside, out of the sun, and read for the rest of the week. I did a lot of sneaky reading, books my mother didn't think were appropriate, hiding romance paperbacks and thrillers inside historical fiction hardcovers. I've never felt more attached to books than I did as a kid--the characters were just so real. There's something irreclaimable about early reading experiences. It's as if there are these whole worlds no one ever told you existed, and when you find them it feels as if you're the first one. It's all very private. I don't think I could pick a favorite book--I loved everything I read.
Your top five authors:
Today? Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf (as an essayist, not a novelist), Susan Sontag (the same holds true here), James Agee and Georges Perec.
Book you've faked reading:
I've pretended to read more books than I can count. I've never actually taken a real literature course, even in high school, so my reading of classics has been self-motivated, and I've huge gaps in my repertoire for that reason. I used to just nod along when someone mentioned an author or book I hadn't read; now I'm a bit better about coming clean. I still feel guilty that I haven't read Jane Eyre.
Book you're an evangelist for:
One of the best--and worst--parts of being a publicist is working on books you truly love. It's great because the impulse behind every e-mail you send to a critic and each pitch letter you write is fueled by the sense that the work you're doing really matters. It feels very personal to be partially responsible for the success of a book you believe in, but that's a curse, too. I've had uncountable nightmares about badly written jacket copy or negative reviews or botched author tours. Right now, I'm lucky enough to be publicizing a book about a woman who infiltrates the world of cage fighting. The intensity I feel for brilliant nonfiction is certainly something close to religious. It's ferocious and almost maternal.
Book that changed your life:
I probably never would have started drawing comics and graphic essays if I hadn't read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home in college. She was the first writer and artist I encountered who taught me I could process ideas and experiences through text and images, and that they could work together in a way that brought my and a reader's thinking to a whole new level. There's often a misconception that comics can't be literature, or even literary, and Fun Home was the first book I read that slapped that notion in the face.
Favorite line from a book:
"As in childhood we live sweeping close to the sky and now, what dawn is this." --Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet. A Portuguese writer who died in 1935, he wrote under dozens of personas in radically different styles, and those personas wrote letters to each other and reviewed each other's books. The Book of Disquiet was found in loose, unnumbered sheets of paper in the trunk of his car after his death, so the construction of the book varies vastly based on the translation. It becomes a different book every time.