|photo: Tim Brelinsky and Max Boyd
Val Brelinski was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, the daughter of devout evangelical Christians. She was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, where she was also a Jones Lecturer in fiction writing. She received an MFA from the University of Virginia, and her writing has been published in VQR and the Rumpus. She lives in Northern California. Her debut novel is The Girl Who Slept with God (Viking, August 4, 2015).
On your nightstand now:
I am engrossed in two short story collections: Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler and You Will Never See Any God by Ervin D. Krause. I am a sap for strangely dark, subversive short stories--the darker and more dreadful, the better. I'm sure this says quite a bit about my own personal leanings and temperament.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, a very dark (of course!) take on the classic fairy tale form that utilizes the most inventive word play ever. I have read this book so many times I have memorized most of it. I was also obsessed with Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I stole this rather radical book out of my grade school library, and I've never felt sorry. I carried it with me like a talisman all through fifth and sixth grade.
Your top five authors:
This is an impossible task, but since I am forced to choose only five, here are the writers whose entire oeuvre I've read and re-read and will read yet again: Deborah Eisenberg, Tessa Hadley, Katherine Mansfield, Bruno Schulz and George Saunders. (Alice Munro goes without saying.)
Book you've faked reading:
I will probably continue to pretend that I've read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Charity by Mark Richard and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, two absolutely inventive and gorgeously rendered flights of fancy.
Book you've bought for the cover:
As much as I love art, I've never bought a book for its cover. Am I missing something?
Book that changed your life:
Falling in Place by Ann Beattie was the first piece of contemporary adult fiction I ever read. Because I was raised evangelical, I wasn't allowed to read anything other than the "classics," so this book was revelatory in its use of modern, idiomatic language, casual sex scenes and hilarious, drug-induced conversations. I felt amazed and immensely cheered that this was considered to be good, literary fiction, and realized that maybe I, too, could write something similar.
Favorite line from a book:
I love the use of the litotes in this passage from Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses:
"Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed mustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping."
Which character you most relate to:
Chip Lambert from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is a troubled and trouble-making middle child who refuses to grow up even while immersed in the world of academia. I identify strongly.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I would be thrilled to be able to re-experience Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (the obvious precursor to The Corrections). Its marvelous use of understatement and bittersweet look at American culture pains me in just the way I long to be pained.