Friday, July 21, 2017

Deborah E. Kennedy

Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has worked as both a reporter and editor, and also holds a Master's in Fiction Writing and English Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Kennedy's new novel, her debut, is Tornado Weather.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, by Barbara Pym. Edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym

I am always reading this book. I am never not reading it. A mash-up of letters, diary entries, and back-of-receipt jottings from the irreplaceable, inimitable Barbara Pym, it's the book equivalent of the perfect English breakfast – nourishing, funny, perfectly balanced. And there's always something new to discover and laugh about and sigh over. Critics often refer to Pym as the second-coming of Jane Austen, but she's kinder than Austen, less abrasive. And that's coming from a die-hard Austenite.

A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, H.W. Fowler

Fowler is another bedside necessity, not because his entries on everything from absolute possessives to Wardour Street are uniformly useful, but because he's grouchy, opinionated, and hilarious. An obsessive, Fowler clearly believed in the power of words and our moral obligation to use them correctly. Consider his ruminations on “Novelty-Hunting,” or a tendency to use fancy words when their simple alternative would suffice. He calls this proclivity “a detriment to the language” and “a confession of weakness.”

(Maybe I should have substituted “proneness” for “proclivity”? Who am I kidding? I'm a horrible novelty-hunter. My apologies, Mr. Fowler. I'm most profoundly, sincerely, fervently, ardently sorry.)

Map: Collected and Last Poems, Wislawa Szymborska

Szymborska is one of the wittiest writers I've ever read, and her humor runs right along side pathos in these poems, many heretofore unpublished. I keep turning again and again to “Written in a Hotel,” a melancholy meditation on the hazards of travel, and this particular stanza: “While writing these lines / I wonder / what in them will come to sound / ridiculous and when.” The writer's eternal dilemma.

The Complete Short Stories of Elizabeth Taylor

I bet you thought the only Elizabeth Taylor worth talking about was the screen siren turned perfumier turned AIDs activist, but my favorite Liz is a British writer who lived in the same time as Mrs. Burton/Fisher/Burton but led a much more modest and unsung existence. Taylor's prose is basically perfect, but what I love most about her stories are the razor-sharp observations she makes about suburban life and the relations between men and women, parents and children, and the haves and the have-nots. Taylor's novels are wonderful as well, especially A Game of Hide and Seek and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.

The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico, Antonio Tabucchi

Everyone I know is wild about Calvino, and for good reason, but Antonio Tabucchi is my favorite Italian. This slim volume of odd and beautiful stories is utterly transporting, thanks in large part to Tabucchi's liberal employment of “saudade,” aka the unique combination of nostalgia and longing that is rumored to characterize the Portuguese temperament. Tabucchi was born in Pisa but lived for most of his life in Lisbon and his wide travels and unimpeachable humanity make the experience of reading these impossible-to-label pieces akin to drinking your favorite wine in your favorite place with your favorite person. What's the Portuguese word for that?
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My Book, The Movie: Tornado Weather.

The Page 69 Test: Tornado Weather.

--Marshal Zeringue