Recently I asked Brenner about what she was reading. Her reply:
I used to have a difficult time reading novels while I was writing a novel, but I missed reading so much I forced myself to get over it. Now I especially seek out books that are very strong in the area I have to work the hardest: description. Recently, I had the good fortune to read two books back-to-back (with titles that are the same just inverted -- strange, right?) that just astounded me in this department. The first was Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. She describes a woman’s cottage so vividly I think of it now as a place I’ve actually been. “I found the cottage’s only bathroom, painted a glossy magenta, and learned quickly it was a primitive affair, with a cracked, too-high mirror and two sinks -- the working one of which was turned on by a permanently affixed set of pliers -- and a decoupaged toilet that swayed dismayingly whenever weight was set upon it.” She describes another house as, “damp and alive, its floorboards curling in places, dirty paint peeling off as though the color were the skin a snake was shedding.”Visit Jamie Brenner's website.
The second novel is Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It’s set in the restaurant world, with lines like “The air vibrated like the plucked string of a violin” and “the skins on the nuts felt like gossamer wrappings.” She describes a slice of tomato, “The insides were tie-dyed pink and red.”
It’s books like these that keep me reading even when I’m writing.