Thursday, June 11, 2009

Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond's short-story collection, Forgetting English (Eastern Washington University Press, 2009), received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in American Literary Review, Ontario Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Passages North, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She is on the editorial board of the literary journal Green Hills Literary Lantern.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually find myself reading several books at once…among the recents:


The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter

This book has been on my to-read shelf for a long time, and I began reading it with a new fascination after hearing Charles Baxter speak at this year’s Get Lit! literary festival in Spokane, Washington. Baxter talked about what inspired this novel: a friend of his who had, inexplicably, begun to impersonate him, telling everyone he was Charles Baxter and even going around doing readings. Baxter said that the friend eventually confessed to him, then asked, “Do you think I should go into therapy?” Even knowing the novel’s inspiration, the book is full of surprises and, of course, Baxter’s always poetic, engaging prose.

Short Stories

Last Night by James Salter

An absolutely beautiful collection of stories, which I admire for many reasons but probably most of all for Salter’s gift for detail, his ability to portray the essence of a character in a few well-chosen words. For example, from “Comet”: “He was mannerly and elegant, his head held back a bit as he talked, as though you were a menu.” The title story is one of the most unforgettable stories I’ve read.


The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

This is an incredibly well researched, thoughtful, and intelligent look at the food industry. The authors look at three American families and their diets (one consuming a “standard American diet,” one all organic, and one vegan) and trace all these foods back to their sources, raising interesting (and not so clear-cut) philosophical, ethical, and environmental questions along the way. Not a cheery read, by any means, but an important one.


Habeas Corpus by Jill McDonough

I met Jill McDonough years ago, when I was writing an article about Boston University’s prison education program, through which McDonough teaches poetry to incarcerated college students. Her book comprises fifty sonnets about legal executions in American history — from the country’s first documented execution in 1608 to the more recent and familiar executions of Timothy McVeigh and Aileen Wuornos. It’s dark and tragic and very powerful.
Read an excerpt from Forgetting English, and learn more about the author and her work at Midge Raymond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue