Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tiffany Baker

Tiffany Baker is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and the newly released The Gilly Salt Sisters.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
If you know my books, you’ll know I am sucker for magic and myths, so I guess it makes sense that I’m devouring Kathryn Harrison’s Enchantments right now, which is all about the end of the Tsar’s rule, told in the voice of Rasputin’s daughter. I am mildly obsessed with all things Russian—from their pre-history, to the times of Tsars, all the way up to current events. Harrison’s book is so lush with detail, I can almost taste the snow, and it’s a fantastic blend of history and fable. I love the way she incorporates the Russian fairy tales I knew as a child into the story. If you’re not familiar with Baba Yaga, I highly encourage a little research. She’s an old woman who lives in the forest in a hut made of bones and set on chicken feet, and she flies through the air in a mortar and pestle. She scared the bejesus out of me when I was little, and now I have great fun spooking my own kids with stories about her.

In that vein, one book I have on order is From Beast to Blond, by Marina Warner, who is a British literary/social critic. Her new book is called Stranger Magic, which I also plan to read. She deals with what fairy tales mean, and why magic is so important. I have a PhD in Victorian literature, so sometimes I like to get my academic nerd on, and read about what literature means in the bigger scheme of our lives. Why do we read fiction? What do our national and cultural myths mean? Who tells what stories and why? These are all important questions for a novelist to ask, I think.

One book I just finished that I was surprised I liked was A Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes, which of course won the Booker Prize. My husband convinced me to read it, and I did so in one sitting. That book just messes with your head. It’s the kind of book you immediately turn back to the beginning of and start over, where everything you thought you knew is wrong. Genius. Also, it strikes me as a very male novel. I believe that men and women internalize and deal with aging very differently. We look at the past differently. I think the books I write are heavily feminine, so this was an excellent glimpse into the male psyche.

We need to talk about cookbooks. I read them the way some folks read novels. I’m working through Nigel Slater’s Tender right now—a love song to all things vegetable. Also, he’s an amazing writer.

In between all of this, I’m always a couple of days behind on The New York Times, and, of course, I have to keep up with everyone on Twitter, and all my friend’s writing blogs. My fellow novelist Joshilyn Jackson is a hoot online, and there’s also Mary Doria Russell, Eleanor Brown, and Margaret Dilloway. I love the Internet and the digitization of books. Now, I can read everything, all the time, everywhere, on any kind of device. What’s not to love about that?
Visit Tiffany Baker's website.

Read more about The Gilly Salt Sisters.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

--Marshal Zeringue