Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation (Graywolf Press, September 30, 2014) explores the myths and metaphors surrounding vaccination, ranging over topics as varied as Dracula, Dr. Bob and Silent Spring. Biss is also the author of Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, which won a National Book Critic's Circle Award, and The Balloonists. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University. Eula Biss and John Bresland are the Chicago band STET Everything.
On your nightstand now:
A galley of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and a chapbook by Chelsea Hodson called Pity the Animal.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is the first book I can remember loving, though I'm sure there were others. My childhood copy survived the fire that burned down my mother's house years ago and I have framed one slightly charred illustration from the book: the rabbit rejoicing after he has been made real, captioned "At last! At last!"
Your top five authors:
Joan Didion, Anne Carson, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and Susan Sontag are five that I keep returning to, but there are many others.
Book you've faked reading:
I once engaged in a passionate argument with my grandmother about Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I owned it, but I hadn't read it yet. I was [later] emboldened by the fact that I still agreed with myself after having read it. I am just now coming into a moment in my life when I am unlikely to fake having read anything I haven't read, which seems to be most everything.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Oh, Amy Leach's beautiful Things That Are. And Robyn Schiff's incredible Revolver. And also David Trinidad's extraordinary Peyton Place.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I bought The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson for its cover; I was not disappointed.
Book that changed your life:
There have been many! Most recently, an early draft of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press, May 2015). The books I love don't always make me happier, but that one did.
Favorite line from a book:
"Those who claim to write about something larger and more significant than the self sometimes fail to comprehend the dimensions of a self." That's from The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso.
Which character you most relate to:
I've always felt a kinship with James Baldwin, particularly the Baldwin of Notes of a Native Son--penitent but proud, reflective but forceful, full of carefully controlled rage.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.