Palm's new book is Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, recipient of the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.
Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually reading a few books at once: one purely for pleasure, one that informs my writing in some way, and one that’s been personally recommended to me.Visit Angela Palm's website.
I just finished How to Start a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball. I bought this book because I’d read an article about Jesse Ball that painted him as unconventional, unpredictable. My impression of him is that he is one of those mad genius types who might give an off the cuff, potentially off putting answer in an interview. I liked that authenticity, the way it disrupts the expected course of literary publicity a little bit. Literature needs more punk. This book has it. It’s about a teenage anarchist whose father has died, leaving behind only his Zippo lighter. The precocious, if somewhat misguided, girl is shuffled to an impoverished aunt’s house and to an alternative school after being expelled for stabbing a boy with a pencil who threatens her last tie to her father—the lighter. The lighter and her attraction to fire gains her entry into what she believes may be an arson club. Written as a series of journal entries, we watch the girl’s fleeting opportunities to reroute her life slip away.
I also just finished an advance copy of Sarah Manguso’s new book, 300 Arguments. It’s tiny—just a bit bigger than my hand. It’s structured as a collage of self-contained thoughts that bite and turn where you least expect them to and gradually build into something more. Reading the arguments was soothing, meditative, thought-provoking. Little treasures and insights about life, art, self, desire, relationships. I love Manguso’s prose because it’s so completely different than mine. She can say in a sentence or two what takes me ten pages. I admire her minimalism and hope to learn something from it.
I’m halfway through Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, which was recently recommended to me by David Shields. We’d been discussing a book he’s working on that is partly—I’m not sure exactly in what way—about his marriage. We got to talking about the intersections of life, art, marriage, and erotic love and he suggested I read Eros. I’m a fan of Anne Carson but had never heard of it. It details in a way that’s both lyric and academic the philosophical and literary history of romantic love. It’s structured as a progression of brief essays. As a whole, the book is esoteric, engrossing. I’ve highlighted the thing nearly to death.