Book Brahmin: Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio is a fiction writer, poet and teacher. Her poetry collections include Tell Me, a finalist for the National Book Award, and What Is This Thing Called Love. Her fifth collection of poetry, Lucifer at the Starlite, is being published by Norton this month. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

On your nightstand now:

Oh God, I counted 67 books. (I have a nightstand on each side of my bed.) I can't seem to read one at a time anymore.  At the tops of various piles are a biography of Diane Arbus, two books of poetry by Dean Young, Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted and Augusten Burroughs's Dry. I'm on a memoir jag. Tell me true stories; don't make shit up! This is entirely unlike me--I love fiction and poetry. So I feel as though I've gone to the dark side.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first in C.S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles. I read them all, but the first one was like discovering dark chocolate or good sex. I kept looking for the magic door in our house that would let me escape from my family; the closest I got was my parents' closet, where I went to hide from my crazy, violent older brother. I can still clearly picture the electric buffer my dad used for his shoes.

Your top five authors:  

Denis Johnson and Lorrie Moore, for their sentences. And Johnson's descriptions of drug use have the power to rearrange your brain chemistry. Dean Young is currently the only poet I can stand to read. By now he probably thinks I'm stalking him, because I keep telling people this. Dean Young I love you! I read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go a while back and couldn't stop thinking about it, so I'm hoping to get to Remains of the Day soon. I'd never read David Sedaris until recently, when a piece in the New Yorker convinced me he was going to become one of my new favorite writers.

Book you've faked reading:

Insert name of classic here. I have, as somebody once said of (I think) Gore Vidal, "all the deficiencies of the autodidact." I'm stupendously ill-read.

Book you're an evangelist for:  

Any book that is passionate, gorgeously written and afterwards haunting. If a book isn't all those things, it is, as Willa Cather said, a cereal box. I want to eat real books.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The first book of poetry I ever bought, Denise Levertov's Life in the Forest. I had discovered the power of poetry but had no idea whom to read, and in this little bookstore in Boston, there was an image of a woman's transparent body among the trees, and it called to me.

Book that changed your life:

Kathy Acker's The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula. It was so far out. It made me realize that I could write whatever I wanted, that there shouldn't be any limits to the exploration of human experience.

Favorite line from a book:  

"The residents of Beverly Home made God look like a senseless maniac."--From a story by Denis Johnson. This line really speaks to me since my mother's in assisted living.

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

Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Defeating the It--that made a big impression on me. Defeating it with love.


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