|photo: Blair Holmes
Gina Frangello is a cofounder of indie press Other Voices Books and editor of the fiction section at The Nervous Breakdown. She is also the author of one previous novel and a collection of short stories. She lives in Chicago. Frangello's new novel is A Life in Men (Algonquin, February 4, 2014).
On your nightstand now:
The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott, which I'm teaching; the manuscript of Liar, a memoir by Rob Roberge that isn't yet published; Stay Up with Me, a collection by Tom Barbash, because friends keep raving about it, and I'm always excited when a collection makes it with a trade publisher; and Ethan Frome, because it's one of my mother's favorites and I love Edith Wharton but have never read it.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It was such a haunting, magical book about a bond between two deeply creative, unconventional young girls--I identified with it so deeply that years later, I tracked down a copy even though it was out of print, so I could read it to my daughters.
Your top five authors:
Milan Kundera, Mary Gaitskill and Margaret Atwood are three where I'll read anything they write--it's kind of an unconditional love developed over decades and I simply trust where they're taking me. Other writers, whether Jennifer Egan or Kate Braverman or Jonathan Franzen or Kathy Acker... a lot of writers have written individual books that have meant the world to me, sometimes a couple of such books, but I may not love every single thing they write--generally speaking, I think books should be judged for the text not the author. Still, because I've had the privilege of working as an editor for 15 years, I admit to having formed some author-based affinities where I've come to realize I'll love everything a certain writer does, that their work on a core level excites me. These are lesser known writers, of course, whose careers I've had the chance to witness from early on, even help shape, where now I'd read anything they wrote, no less than if they were Gaitskill or Kundera. Two of my authors at Other Voices Books, Zoe Zolbrod and Rob Roberge, exemplify that kind of relationship, but there are others, too.
Book you've faked reading:
I faked reading dozens of books in high school and college. I read voraciously but rarely anything that was assigned. You name it--Beowulf, Great Expectations, The Canterbury Tales. I did read Shakespeare for real, and I was obsessed with Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Otherwise the vast majority of my educational experience from 14 to 20 was mainly Cliffs Notes and a lot of b.s. on essay exams.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I know a lot of people may begin this novel thinking it seems dense and perhaps a bit "slow." But I've never read another novel I was so thrilled not to have put aside when I was tempted. The emotional, intellectual and psychological payoff of the whole is positively shattering. I wish everyone who thinks they didn't get into this novel would give it another serious look--it was deserving of its Booker, and more.
Book you've bought for the cover:
My husband bought me Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter while I was in the hospital, because he said the cover reminded him of A Life in Men's. I hadn't read Beautiful Ruins when it was new--I was too busy or didn't think I was interested in old Hollywood or something--but I ended up falling madly in love with the novel, and it stimulated and transported me enormously while I was recovering. Probably the book I myself bought strictly for the cover was Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved... I had never heard of her (she's Paul Auster's wife and has numerous books), and this ended up being one of my favorite novels of the past decade.
Book that changed your life:
The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow. Hands down. It absolutely made my head explode.
Favorite line from a book:
Milan Kundera's line from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: "Love is a continual interrogation.... I don't know of a better definition for love."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Perhaps Francesca Marciano's Rules of the Wild, which was one of the most fun novels I've ever read. Or The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I reread every year, and it always presents itself to me in a new way as I've made my way--from 19 to 45--through the ages of its main characters.