Sunday, April 21, 2013

Peter Rock

Peter Rock was born and raised in Salt Lake City. His most recent book is The Shelter Cycle, which concerns the end of the world in Montana in 1990, among other things.  His previous novel, My Abandonment, has won an Alex Award, the Utah Book Award, and been published in Germany, Turkey and France. He is also the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, This Is the Place, and Carnival Wolves, and a story collection, The Unsettling.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading.  Rock's reply:
Rather than dream up some titles that would impress people, I’ll just ‘fess up to some of the books on my bedside table, ones I’ve been reading in the last week:

My Education, by Susan Choi

This is a great and terrifying novel. I believe it comes out in July, but I got an early copy because Susan’s an old friend of mine. In fact, we had a two-person independent study about our writing when we were college students. And then we hung out all the time when she was a graduate student at Cornell and this novel is loosely based on those years, so it was eerie. More eerie, though, was how amazing Susan’s prose is. No one writes better sentences and keeps them moving, looping, twisting. What’s so amazing here is the tension is created not only by what will happen next but the mystery of how the graduate school heroine—prone to bad choices and behavior, often quite immature—is going to become the sophisticated narrator who describes her.

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana: The Ultimate Guide to Physical Sex

Unexpurgated and still shocking after 15 centuries! Actually, it is kind of disappointing. My brother-in-law gave this to me and my wife for Christmas; he is prone to giving us gifts like this (e.g. Sensual Massage, where at least the pictures are shocking). It’s been on my bedside table and every now and then I read a passage aloud, usually about how wives should behave, and then my wife disagrees.

The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter

Come on, now. “Puss-in-Boots” and “Bluebeard” and all manner of the fairytales taken on, here, couldn’t be more terrifying. Angela Carter is so incredibly sharp; she turns our expectations inside out! Also, as a writer who has long striven toward sparseness, reading these stories showed me again the power of lyricism and density, how words could make colors and change temperatures. An amazing book.

The Boxcar Children: The Yellow House Mystery, by Gertrude Chandler Warner

My girls are 3 and 5, and devoted to the Boxcar Children. I have learned a lot from Gertrude Chandler Warner (she wrote the first 19; after her death the quality trails off), she of the sharp sentences and the bold, unapologetic plot turns. Her characterization is right on, and her use of “quite” and “fine,” the constant hunger of Benny—all fantastic. She’s one of my favorite authors, right now. This is the third book, where she really finds her stride, I think. The canoeing, the camping trip, the silent hermit, the helpful Indian girl: it’s all here.

Something Bright, Then Holes, by Maggie Nelson

This is a great collection of poems. I came to reading Maggie’s work through the excellent Bluets, and this may be the only book I haven’t completely read, yet. I’m especially taken by the long “Canal Diaries,” where the narrator sits by the polluted and ever-changing Gowanus Canal. Broken-down desks, silent pens, and “The green canoe still humps the red canoe.”—what a great description of a static world that’s always full of potential, late at night.
Visit Peter Rock's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Abandonment.

The Page 69 Test: The Shelter Cycle.

--Marshal Zeringue