Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nick Holdstock

Nick Holdstock's fiction and essays have appeared in a wide range of US and UK publications, including The London Review of Books, The Southern Review, n+1, Dissent, Vice, The Independent, and Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the author of The Tree That Bleeds: A Uighur Town on the Edge, a book about life in China's Xinjiang province, and China's Forgotten People (2015).

Holdstock's new novel is The Casualties.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve just finished reading William Vollmann’s new novel, The Dying Grass, a 1300 page novel about the Nez Perce Indian war in 1877. During this the US army pursued the Nez Perce Indians over three months, killing many of them in the process. Those that were captured were placed on reservations where they were further preyed on by missionaries and profiteers. I doubt I’ll read anything as good as this book for a while – it’s rich, formally daring and has consistently wonderful sentences. Like Vollmann’s other historical novels, it also has the virtue of being honest about what’s been made up, distorted, or lifted from historical sources, which actually makes the whole thing seem more believable. This is a book about something that actually matters – the uncomfortable legacy of dispossession and murder that our (supposedly) prosperous present is built on.

The other book I’m reading is a careful explosion of what most of us think of when we talk about ‘Satan’. The Origin of Satan by Princeton professor Elaine Pagels meticulously shows how the notion of the devil as the adversary of God was constructed by the early Christians – in Hebrew sources Satan was more like a lackey of God. When Jewish groups did refer to him, it was mainly while trying to demonise other groups. Our perception of Satan, one of our foundational cultural figures, is thus primarily the result of power struggles during the early history of the Christian church. I’m interested in this because I’m working on a novel set in the Middle Ages, and it’s rather hard to avoid talking about this fellow. I’m thinking it might be a nice opportunity for him to tell his side of the story.
Visit Nick Holdstock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue