Monday, July 25, 2011

Anna North

Anna North is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, America Pacifica, was published by Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown on May 18, 2011. She is also a staff writer at Jezebel.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually reading several different books at a time, which I dip into depending on my mood. Here’s what’s in my stack right now:

Season to Taste, by Molly Birnbaum

Birnbaum lost her sense of smell after a head injury and then regained it bit by bit over the course of many months. Her memoir of this time in her life is movingly personal, but also analytical – she talks to neuroscientists, perfumers, and chefs about the nature of smell and what happens when it’s lost. This book makes me notice things like the smell of own hand while I hold it – it also makes me want to cook.

The Illumination, by Kevin Brockmeier

Brockmeier’s latest novel imagines a world in which pain manifests as visible light. Some writers (Saramago comes to mind) might focus on the social impact of this change, but Brockmeier is more interested in how the Illumination affects individual lives – those of a man who has lost his wife, a novelist plagued by canker sores, a boy who can see the pain not just of humans, but of objects. The result is a story of suffering, of empathy, and of the beauty of both.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

This is an eerie, unusual novel about two people who are very nearly incapable of living in the world. They come together, but then they don’t, and their glancing attempts at connection make the book surprisingly suspenseful. Like The Illumination, Prime Numbers deals with pain and its effects, but as the title suggests, Giordano is largely concerned with the ways in which we handle our pain alone.

Rebels on the Backlot, by Sharon Waxman

I’m working on a new project about a (fictional) film director, so I’m reading a lot of books about what it’s like to make movies. Waxman’s book chronicles the careers of six iconoclastic directors from their (sometimes) humble beginnings to the making of their game-changing films. So far, I’m most interested in Waxman’s accounts of the directors’ early lives – she writes, for instance, about a young Tarantino and his buddies working at a video rental store. As someone who’s always found the prospect of making a movie pretty daunting and scary, I’m curious about how the impulse to do so starts. Since America Pacifica was set in the future, in a largely made-up world, doing research is something of a new thing for me. I’m still working out what to read, and how to read in a way that will be useful to me when I’m writing. I haven’t got it totally figured out yet, but maybe I’ll have a better handle on it by the third or fourth book.
Visit Anna North's website.

--Marshal Zeringue