Book Brahmin: Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name "Ford," thus confusing countless generations. Ford is a short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle's Chinatown, he now lives in Montana, where he's on a never-ending quest to find decent dim sum. His debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine, $24, 9780345505330/0345505336), is an Indie Next List selection for February. Visit him online at

On your nightstand now:

Gerald's Game
by Stephen King, right next to my handcuffs. Actually I just looked, and there's a huge stack of old Japanese comics, mainly Lone Wolf & Cub, which I like better than the Americanized version, Road to Perdition.

Favorite book when you were a child:

It's a toss-up between The White Mountains by John Christopher, part of the Tripod Series, and my sister's dog-eared copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. I was a very intrepid fourth grader.

Your top five authors:

Harlan Ellison. His essays from the Los Angeles Free Press circa 1970-something are still amazing. Like reading a painfully honest and often incendiary blog, 30 years before the Internet.

Stan Lee. The Marvel Comics writer and editor who gave us Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the X-men, et al. A century from now we'll remember him as the Shakespeare of our time (or at least P.T. Barnum).

Sherman Alexie. When funny, tragic, lyrical minds write books, the world is a better place.

Orson Scott Card. A pure storyteller in an age of performance writing. Rarely do SF&F characters feel so real.

Nikki Giovanni. Do poets count? Of course, they do. I love her for evangelizing hip-hop as a natural extension of the spoken word and for reminding us that the work of our heart is on par with the work of our hands.

Book you've faked reading:

I'll admit that I faked reading Finnegans Wake, if James Joyce will admit that he faked writing it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Off the top of my head I'll say The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by the abovementioned Sherman Alexie. It's poignant and charming and brilliant, and the artwork is perfect. But beyond that, I'd say that I'm an evangelist for anything that makes non-readers read--especially young readers. I know some people knock Stephenie Meyer or whomever is über-popular, but in an age when fewer and fewer teens actually read books, how can we criticize anyone who generates that much traffic at your local bookstore?

Book you've bought for the cover:

Honestly, I never do that. I have a degree in design, so my tastes are pretty esoteric. Plus, I shop at places like Kinokuniya, in Seattle, and would end up buying scores of Japanese novels written in tategaki (reading right to left).

Book that changed your life:

Whatever book I was checking out when I met my wife. Yes, we met at that hotbed of swinging singles activity, the public library. Hey, don't knock it--librarians are hot. Batgirl was a librarian.

Favorite line from a book:

"If your soul truly cries out for music and books, and you cannot afford them . . . steal them. And repay society later."--Harlan Ellison, The Harlan Ellison Hornbook.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I bumped into Dave at Comic Con this year and was star-struck to the point of paralysis.


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