Born and raised in Northern California, Kathleen Alcott now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work appears on The Rumpus and in American Short Fiction; Slice; Volume 1 Brooklyn; Explosion-Proof; and Rumpus Women, Volume 1, an anthology of personal essays. Her debut novel, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, was just published by Other Press. She is currently at work on her second novel.
On your nightstand now:
Adam Haslett's You Are Not a Stranger Here. I'm at a turning point in the novel I'm working on, and so my reading habits turn to shorter works; I think it's a support system. I need short, powerful injections as I can't commit to a longer narrative. Each story in Haslett's collection is a reminder of how much power lies in negative space.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. There's a tattoo on my wrist to prove it, and it makes me happy every day, when I wake up and see it.
Your top five authors:
David Foster Wallace, Lorrie Moore, Gabriel García Márquez, Vladimir Nabokov and Alice Munro.
Book you've faked reading:
The Bible. I was raised without religion, but I always had a sense of how Christianity had influenced storytelling, and I wanted a closer connection to that power. The summer I was maybe 13, I carried it around and tried to cultivate an earnest interest. I failed and went swimming instead.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I have had serious, up-all-night discussions overseen by the close presence of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. It's as if I could not speak falsely with the book around. My torn-up, stained, dog-eared, underlined copy was lost in the mail when I moved across the country, and I may have cried.
Book you've bought for the cover:
My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead, a collection of love stories compiled by Jeffrey Eugenides. I just remember running my hands over the embossed heart in the bookstore and heading to the cashier straightaway.
Book that changed your life:
My father read me stories from García Márquez's Strange Pilgrims when I was eight or nine, and I think that was the first time I truly recognized the writer's curatorial agency--like, he can make those kids drown in light? You can do that? That was attractive to me, because I was always trying to paint my surroundings as a little more spectacular, and it occurred to me this was the true path toward that. I started writing less traditionally after hearing those stories: hallways that turned to jungles at night, dead people coming back to eat the leftovers in the fridge.
Favorite line from a book:
"Never a temple, her body had gone from being a home, to being a house, to being a phone booth, to being a kite." --Lorrie Moore, "Real Estate," Birds of America
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Lauren Groff's Arcadia. She so capably architected a whole universe that grew as the protagonist Bit did--it's this stunning string of bells that slowly add up to an unforgettable song--and I never wanted to leave.