Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura is Writer in Residence at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD and teaches in the MFA program at the Rainier Writing Workshop, in Tacoma, WA.

Her books include King Baby (poems), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award; On Looking (essays), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Towson University Award in Literature; Increase (essays), winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award; and Stone Sky Lifting, winner of the OSU Press/The Journal Award.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm reading the truly wonderful Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban -- a writer I've known, until very recently, only as the illustrator of the Bread and Jam for Francis books. This is absolutely not the kind of thing I'd pick up on my own; it was urged on me by a trusted novelist friend -- and it's stunning. Set in post-apocalyptic England and written in a kind of rudimentary/exploded/archaic-techno English, young Riddley intuits and listens his way towards wholeness ... there's a warmth and tenderness in this character that's just amazing, and although the language is "diminished," or spliced from many sources, it's expressive and organic, too. I'm attached to Riddley the way I used to attach to characters as a kid -- and I haven't felt that for a very very long time. I used to love them in the way of wanting to be their friend, but also feeling like they WERE me and not at all separate, and also feeling (hard to untangle all these) protective about them -- almost like I wanted to keep them safe and in my pocket and learn from them at the same time. Riddley is in the position of having to reconstruct a damaged, ruined world and construct a life as an adult -- and to accomplish these tasks, he has to work out nothing less than a fully fleshed epistemology, based on his own smarts, good will, savvy and ever-enlarging understanding of competing human drives. I haven't finished it yet, and might not for a while, because I'm dosing it out so carefully....
Visit Lia Purpura's website and sample her poems and essays, and read reviews and interviews about her work.

--Marshal Zeringue