Monday, May 13, 2013

Sheri Joseph

Sheri Joseph is the author of the novels Where You Can Find Me (Thomas Dunne Books 2013) and Stray (MacAdam/Cage 2007), as well as a cycle of stories, Bear Me Safely Over (Grove/Atlantic 2002). She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Grub Street National Book Prize, among other awards. She lives in Atlanta and teaches in the creative writing program of Georgia State University.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading.  Joseph's reply:
I almost never get to pick up a book by choice. Even on leave from teaching this semester, I’m still buried under a mound of graduate theses, stories for Five Points, books I’ve been asked to blurb, etc.. But on the other side of that, I presently have the rare luxury of choosing some of my own reading. These books I’ve sorted into two main stacks.

One stack is novels written by friends of mine that are being published near the same time as my own. I read very slowly, but of the ones I’ve gotten to, three have made me envious. Allison Amend’s A Nearly Perfect Copy is a page-turner about art forgery and human cloning. It’s one of those books that provides an education in its topics while following terrific characters through their adventures. Christopher Castellani’s third book in a trilogy about an Italian immigrant family, All This Talk of Love, is a big domestic drama in the vein of The Corrections—it’s nuanced, engrossing, and absolutely stands on its own if you haven’t read the other two novels. Susan Rebecca White’s A Place at the Table tells the story of a young white, gay chef from the South who moves to New York City, where he is mentored by an older African-American chef, a relationship inspired by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis. Susan is in my writers’ group, so I’ve read pieces of this book in earlier drafts and just recently got my hands on the ARC. It’s a brilliant novel and a pleasure for me to see all she’s done to bring the full story together.

My second stack is composed of books related to my novel-in-progress, which is a campus novel. So I’m reading campus novels and books about school. The best I’ve come across so far, which I recommend to anyone even if you don’t have a particular interest in college or prep school life, are Tobias Wolff’s Old School, Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, John Williams’ Stoner, and Richard Yates’ A Good School. I’ve also been carrying around a couple ragged, elderly paperbacks that are touchstones for the novel-in-progress, in that they are meaningful to some of my central characters: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey and Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman. I read bits of these whenever I have a minute, dipping in and out.

More? I teach a craft class for fiction writers in which the reading list (new every semester) is books recommended to me by other writers as ones aspiring writers should read, either as models for different techniques or as inspiration. I’ve read so many good books for this class that a full list would be overwhelming, but here are some of the more recent choices that made a big impression: Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid, Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World, Toni Morrison’s Sula, Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop, Jim Crace’s Being Dead, Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, and Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever?.
Visit Sheri Joseph's blog and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Where You Can Find Me.

--Marshal Zeringue