Thursday, September 18, 2008

Margaret Luongo

Margaret Luongo teaches creative writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Her stories have appeared in Tin House, FENCE, Cincinnati Review, and other journals. Her new book of stories is If the Heart Is Lean.

A few days ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
The semester has started up, so I’m dipping into story collections more and more. I just finished Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson,” which a friend had recommended. I’d told her I was thinking about writing a doppelganger story set in Ohio, and she set me on this Poe story. I have a collection of his work—the poetry and the stories—which I’ve had since childhood. I read Poe heavily as a teenager, and I loved his feverish prose—still do. The story is classic Poe: a dark tone, and a character going too far into darkness.

Last spring, Alexandra Chasin came to read at Miami University. She read from her story collection Kissed By for a solid hour, and I was transfixed—not normal for me. Generally, I’m good for about 35 minutes. Last night, I read “Two Alphabets” aloud to my husband in the car as we drove to Cincinnati, and I kept going back to re-read passages that were just gorgeous—beautiful, moving rhythm and language. The collection was published by FC2 and the stories are experimental, but that should not put people off. The stories I’ve heard and read are full of emotion and humanity. Chasin’s intelligence informs her choices and enhances what is moving in every day life. Everything is heightened yet believable, somehow polished and raw at the same time.

When I was preparing to teach an intro to Creative Writing class last year, I went to the library to check out Amy Bloom’s Come to Me, which I love. I ended up also getting Dagoberto Gilb’s Woodcuts of Women, a collection of 10 stories and woodcuts. I’m just getting around to reading it now. His characters love women and they love love. If menace can be delicate, it is here; linked to desire and vanity, it’s all the more unsettling. I’m only two stories in, but already I know I’ll want to re-read these stories.
Read more about Margaret Luongo's If the Heart Is Lean at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue