At the end of last month I asked him what he was reading. His response:
Instead of taking Ritalin, I learned to cope with being ADD as a kid. I accepted my odd habit of starting one book, putting it down, and starting another. Maybe that’s why U.P. was written with multiple narrators. Before I’d get bored with one voice, I’d switch to another to maintain the energy I wanted in the narrative. Right now I have two bathroom books, a car book, and five bedside books. And yes, I’m honestly reading them simultaneously.Visit Ron Riekki's website.
Bathroom books: Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy—good read. Good bathroom book. Always read about prison in the bathroom.
James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake—I pick this up when I want to think differently. I remember a panel with Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute where he advised us to read books backwards. Reading Finnegans Wake forward is the same as reading most books backwards. I don’t understand a word. And I like that. When I’m in the mood. Which tends to be in the bathroom.
Car book: John Irving’s The World According to Garp—I don’t like most of it, but I very rarely quit a book once I've started it. A writing prof told me that reading books you don’t like is just as good to do as reading books you do like. That stuck with me, so I always finish the books I start. In the last three years I’ve only skipped pages on one book, Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. Hated that novel. But I didn’t abandon it.
Bedside books: Larousse Dictionnaire—I love listening to French radio on the Internet (690 am Montréal) and enjoy thumbing through Larousse to pick up new words. Etymology fascinates me, the way that words tell stories through their historical connections, like realizing how terroir and terror are next of kin.
The Michael Eric Dyson Reader—He signed my book, “To Ron, a great, soulful intellectual! Peace & love 2/19/09” and gave me a hug. I’d love to make that deep of a connection with my readers. He’s a truly great and soulful intellectual.
Henry Miller’s Sexus—I’m a big Miller fan. He can rant and ramble and I don’t mind. Kathy Acker’s like that with me. There’s something so authentic and interesting about the voice that I’m in for the ride no matter what. I’ll sometimes randomly open up to a sentence here or there on a page I've already read and enjoy his word choices.
Andrew Calcutt and Richard Shephard’s Cult Fiction: a reader’s guide—My favorite book of all time. I keep it by my bed and read a paragraph every day. I love to read about writers. My goal is to read every book listed in the recommendation section. I’m ten years into that commitment and am about halfway and the books I’ve read have greatly influenced the voice I have as a writer.
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet—I love positive books, amazingly positive books. I don’t write like that, but I’d love to. Inspirational. Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if I’d only read positive books my whole life—none of the complexity of Stewart Home, Sarah Kane, Irvine Welsh. Just encouraging texts. I wish I was that kind of person, solely kind, only could think kind thoughts. But I’m just a human. And that’s the characters I write—flawed.
(I also have a Zen book that I keep by my bedside. It's lost in the move right now, but I'll find it again. I really like that book. I also recommend John Bullock's Making Faces and Tara Yellen's After Hours at the Almost Home. Thank you very much to everyone who's read U.P. I've always dreamed of being a writer so I appreciate your reading my book. And look for my next novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Boogey Man on Ghost Road Press in 2010, about a schizophrenic Slayer/John Denver fan.)