Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Emily Mitchell

Born in London, Emily Mitchell moved to the United States as a teenager. She has since lived in Vermont, Osaka, London, New York, San Francisco,West Virginia, Ohio, and Washington DC. She holds a B. A. from Middlebury College in Vermont, and worked as an editor at Index on Censorship magazine in London and at in New York before getting her M. F. A. at Brooklyn College.

Mitchell is the author of a novel, The Last Summer of the World, an imaginative account of art-photographer Edward Steichen’s work in aerial reconnaissance during World War One, which was a finalist for the 2008 New York Public Library Young Lions Prize and a best-book-of-the-year in the Madison Capital Times, the Austin American-Statesman and the Providence Journal. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, Viral (Norton, 2015).

Recently I asked Mitchell about what she was reading. Her reply:
The book I finished most recently is Tania James's incredible new novel The Tusk that Did the Damage. I have been a fan of James's fiction for a while and was delighted to find this new book. It's set in rural India and it tells the story of a rogue elephant, one that has taken to attacking human beings, and the people who are drawn into the drama created by these attacks. It's structured as a braided narrative and it uses two first-person narrators, an American documentary maker who has come to India to make a film about ivory poaching and a local villager whose cousin is killed by the elephant known as "The Gravedigger". Their stories are told beautifully but for me the most moving part of the book is the third strand of the narrative: a close third-person narrative that tells the elephant's own story from his infancy and which dips inside the consciousness of this long-suffering and highly-intelligent creature in a way that is utterly convincing and very affecting.

I also just recently read Michael Martone's lovely, funny Blue Guide to Indiana which is a work completely after my own heart. What do you even call it? Is it a novel or something else? I'm not sure. It presents itself as a guidebook to a version of the state of Indiana that I wish really existed and gives a detailed and thoughtful introductions to (for example) the great Trans-Indiana Mayonnaise Pipeline, the Eli Lilly Land pharmaceutical theme park and the Underground Levittown, where all the houses are a quarter mile underneath the surface of the earth. Wonderful.

Finally, I am in the middle of Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox. A famous writer finds himself caught up in his own fictions and toyed with by his own muse in a game that seems destined to go on exploring endless different permutations of love and power until... what? I haven't finished it yet. This is the first book of Oyeyemi's that I've read and it is remarkable, daring and very funny. I doubt that it will be the last.
Visit Emily Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue