Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stacey Levine

Stacey Levine's books include My Horse and Other Stories, Dra—, and Frances Johnson.

Earlier this week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading a slew of books in this weird, lax technique of only reading a few pages or a chapter of each book at any given time and continuing to do so for months and months on end. This has been going on for almost a year. It’s ridiculously slow. But then, what’s the hurry? I give up on some of the books, but not The Tales of Merry Gold by Kate Bernheimer, linked, tweaked fairy stories. The prose is careful, slow, and it looks around before it speaks. It is a delight. In contrast to this is Karen Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club, which pushes its sentences out there, bang, with little subtlety. But it’s also kind of fun, like a magazine in a dentist’s waiting room. There’s also The Swarm, translated from the German, originally titled Der Schwarm, by Frank Schatzing. This is a popular Eurothriller about whales and worms in the world’s oceans lashing back at humans, an old-school Eco/Gaia sensibility meets mystery story that spans the globe. Whales rise up out of the water and smash fishing vessels and oil company exploration boats. Gratifying. All the characters are referred to by their last names: “Lund,” or “Johansen,” etc. This is very manly prose — I like it.

Bret Easton Ellis’ most recent, Lunar Park, with its purposefully unlikeable characters, is pretty great, much more complex than Fowler or Schatzig. As is The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard, a world-class novel that’s smoldering and brilliant. The Nature Diary of Opal Whitely contains the writings of a little Oregon girl who was considered a literary prodigy in the early 20th century. Later she was accused of plagiarism, and became a wandering hermit, meeting a bad end in London in the 1960s or so. I can’t really seem to finish Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Its prose is so mild. Under the Glacier by Haldor Laxness, an Icelander, is terse, hilarious, and full of awe for life.
Stacey Levine's story collection, My Horse and Other Stories (Sun & Moon Press), won the PEN/West fiction award in 1994. Since then she has published Dra— (Sun & Moon Press) and Frances Johnson (Clear Cut Press), which was a finalist for the WA State Book Award. Her short stories have appeared in numerous venues, including the Fall 2007 issue of Tin House. Her criticism has been published by The American Book Review, Rain Taxi, The Seattle Times, The Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, C Magazine (Toronto), and Nest Magazine. She has performed public readings of her work with Karen Finley, Kathleen Hanna, the Black Cat Orchestra, Grace Paley, and Russian novelist Andre Bitov.

Read more about Frances Johnson and visit Stacey Levine's website.

--Marshal Zeringue