|photo: Karen Osborne
Sarah Pinsker's stories have won the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, and have been finalists for the Hugo, Locus, Foster and more. Her work has been translated into Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian and Galician. Her collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was just published by Small Beer Press, and her first novel, A Song for a New Day, is coming from Berkley in the fall. Pinsker lives with her wife in Baltimore, Md.
On your nightstand now:
I don't have a nightstand, but I have a stack of books beside my bed that is about eyeball height at this point. It includes Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat and The Du Mauriers (her biography of her family--I'm on a kick); N.K. Jemisin's How Long 'Til Black Future Month; Vandana Singh's Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories; The Best Plays of 1921-22; and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, which is itself about two feet tall.
Favorite book when you were a child:
A single book??? I was a horse kid, so I read everything by Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, Lynn Hall, C.W. Anderson and Jean Slaughter Doty about 200 times each. Basically every book with a horse in the name except Steinbeck's The Red Pony, which traumatized me. In the non-horse category, I'll say all the Madeleine L'Engle books.
Your top five authors:
I hate picking favorites and I'm an incomplete completist, but Ursula K. Le Guin, Karen Joy Fowler, Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith and Elizabeth Hand are all high on my list.
Book you've faked reading:
Bleak House by Dickens. I know I managed to write a paper on it in college, but it was a skim job. I don't really feel bad about this at all.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Shaun Tan's The Arrival. It's a wordless depiction of an immigration experience. The protagonist doesn't share a language with anyone in his new country; their language is gibberish to him and gibberish to the reader. Any item we might recognize is rendered in such a way as to make it foreign to the reader as well, so we experience the confusion that the man feels: strange fruit, strange animals, strange monuments. Tan's illustrations tell the immigrant's story a thousand times better than words could have.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Saga Press is reissuing three Molly Gloss novels over the next few months (Outside the Gates, Dazzle of Day and Wild Life) followed by her first collection, Unforeseen. I already had two of the books, but I've preordered all four of these both for her prose and the gorgeously stark matching covers by Jeffrey Alan Love.
Book you hid from your parents:
I went through a weird period of reading rock tell-alls when I was 13 or 14. My parents never withheld any book from me, but I felt the need to hide these in my closet. There were a bunch: Pamela des Barres's I'm with the Band, the Led Zeppelin bio Hammer of the Gods, Jim Morrison's poetry. I wonder what happened to them? I don't think I took them with me when I moved out. Sorry, Mom.
Book that changed your life:
Kij Johnson's At the Mouth of the River of Bees, but also more specifically her story "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss." My first published story was a direct result of me trying to take that story apart and figure out what made it tick. I'm here answering these questions at least in part because of "26 Monkeys."
Favorite line from a book:
This is just cruel. Since I think I'm coming across as Le Guin-obsessive, I'll pick something else, even though I can think of a dozen by her.
There's a great line from Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union: "It never takes longer than a few minutes, when they get together, for everyone to revert to the state of nature, like a party marooned by a shipwreck. That's what a family is. Also the storm at sea, the ship, and the unknown shore. And the hats and the whiskey stills that you make out of bamboo and coconuts. And the fire that you light to keep away the beasts."
I think of that every time my family gets together.
Five books you'll never part with:
I'm looking at this question as book-as-artifact. That's the dangerous kind. I'd prefer not to part with the copy of The Lathe of Heaven that Ursula Le Guin autographed for me when I was 14, or the copy of her Always Coming Home that I stole from my parents, which is the boxed edition that came with a cassette of songs of the Kesh. King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak, which had a profound effect on me as a child, for Korczak's own story as well as the novel. Maxwell Street by Ira Berkow, which documents the street in Chicago where my grandfather had a clothing store. Was by Geoff Ryman, which is an amazing novel, but also has a personalized inscription and my own scrawled note to myself from 1995 about an upcoming Ramones show.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I have a rather lousy memory for book details, so I actually do get to read novels again as if they were new to me. I recently read Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea for the first time in 30 years. I had completely forgotten everything about it beyond the fact it concerned names, a dragon and a boy called Ged. I look forward to reading the rest of the Earthsea books again for the first time in the near future.