Book Brahmin: Laura Kasischke

In addition to the novella Eden Springs (Wayne State University Press, March 15, 2010), Laura Kasischke has published seven novels and seven collections of poetry. She's been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and several Pushcart Prizes. She teaches at the University of Michigan and lives in Chelsea, Mich., with her husband and son.

On your nightstand now:

I have several issues of Poetry magazine, which I'm reading and rereading, and also Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl by Mary Mycio (horrifying and fascinating: there's so much thriving wildlife there, an abandoned Eden, and all of it radioactive) and Fugue State--stories by Brian Evenson. a writer new to me. The stories are eerie and completely memorable.

Favorite book when you were a child:

All of Laura Ingalls Wilder and, later, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

Your top five authors:

William Butler Yeats, poet Tomas Tranströmer, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Gustave Flaubert.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, I don't want to name names, because it was written by an acquaintance--there's no chance the acquaintance will read this, so I don't feel bad saying that. From the first chapter, I knew it was so mean-spirited that I couldn't go on and stay on polite terms with this acquaintance. A lot of jokes at the expense of children and cats! And I recognized one of the characters as a mutual friend--parodied in cringe-inducing ways. So I said, "I found your book eye-opening and jaw-dropping," and it seems this was taken as a compliment, and the assumption was that I'd read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

"The Horla" by Guy De Maupassant. It's not just your typical slow-descent-into madness story. A scary, believable journey into another dimension.
Book you've bought for the cover:

David Searcy's Last Things. I'm sure it'll be a great novel (I loved his Ordinary Horror), but I haven't had time to read it yet, and even if it's not good, it's worth the cover--an orange-red sunset with a ragged scarecrow staring out of an all-encompassing fog.

Book that changed your life:

Elie Wiesel's Night. It was not only the book that changed my life, but the fact of the writer's having been able to write it and having been able to live through its details and go on living and writing in this world as such a decent, alert human being.

Favorite line from a book:

It's a line from a poem ("The Light Streams In") by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton. But you might have to read the whole poem to see why the line "The countdown has begun" is so good!

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

Dante's Inferno--but I'd also have to go back to the time in my life when I was in a class taught by the best instructor I'd ever had--Cindy Sowers at the University of Michigan--back when I had no idea such a poem existed, or how one would ever read it, and Dante and Cindy Sowers cracked the universe open for me.

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