|photo: Lewis McVey|
Maryse Meijer is the author of the story collections Heartbreaker and the forthcoming Rag. Her new novella, Northwood, was just published by Black Balloon Books.
On your nightstand now:
The Mirror of Tauromachy by Michel Leiris. I'm working on a book about bullfighting, and in my research came across this surrealist gem, complete with incredible line drawings. The first 17 pages are like poetry: dense, wildly imaginative, true. Best thing I've read this year.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Pet Sematary, Stephen King. Actually, this was my twin sister's favorite; she read it 14 times in grade school. It so dominated our literary landscape that I can't remember what my favorite book was. We like to say it taught us about what marriage was all about... thanks, Stephen.
Your top five authors:
Robert Walser--who makes the smallest things feel huge.
Joyce Carol Oates--she's done everything I've ever wanted to do as a writer, and she's done it literally hundreds of times. Her short stories completely informed my own.
Elizabeth Bowen--mainly because of The Death of the Heart, a book worth 1,000 others.
Janet Frame--every book she wrote is heartbreaking.
Anne Carson--because everything she writes is brilliant, effortlessly original and completely human.
Book you've faked reading:
Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, Marguerite Young. An enormous, fairly obscure two-volume epic that I enjoyed carting about for a month. I never got past the first 50 pages and still have no idea what it's about.
Book you're an evangelist for:
How Like a God, Rex Stout. Look, this is the best book you've never read. If you can track down a copy--it's been out of print since the '60s--you won't regret it. Incredibly well-written, bizarre and a rare, early example of a narrative told in the second person that really works. Gut-punchingly good.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Universal Harvester, John Darnielle.
Book you hid from your parents:
The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey. The ONLY book banned from our household; of course, my twin and I just had to have it.
Book that changed your life:
Strange Angels, Kathe Koja. I read this in my early teens and it really did change my life as a writer; I immediately cribbed Koja's stream-of-consciousness style, and to this day I still find her voice cropping up in my own work. It was the first book I'd read that felt like exactly the sort of thing I wanted to write someday. I read it every year.
Five books you'll never part with:
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson: A perfect book. Period.
The Vivisector, Patrick White: Sad, difficult, strange--I read it obsessively during geometry class in the 11th grade. Every time I read it, I think about chalk and triangles. In a really good way.
The Gallery, John Horne Burns: A book of sketches, each from a different character's point of view--incredibly beautiful on every level.
Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig: A juicy, melodramatic story full of spot-on insights into human nature.
The Necrophiliac, Gabrielle Wittkop: A book that transcends taboo; sympathetic, ironic, romantic, lonely--a book that manages to make passion for dead bodies weirdly, beautifully understandable. Truly incredible.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.
I held off reading this novel for years, thinking that something so popular--and historical--could never live up the hype. Well, I was totally wrong--this is one of the best books written in the last 100 years. Or ever. It was so exciting to read a contemporary novel that felt immediately classic; I envy anyone coming to this text for the first time.
Book you wish you'd written:
Transformations, Anne Sexton
I loved this book of poems based on fairy tales so much that I cribbed from it shamelessly while writing Northwood. I actually feel enraged when I think about how good it is; no one should be allowed to be so brilliant. Damn you, Sexton!!