Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Caleb Johnson

Caleb Johnson grew up in Arley, Alabama, studied journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and earned an MFA from the University of Wyoming. He has worked as a small-town newspaper reporter, an early-morning janitor, and a whole-animal butcher, among other jobs.

Johnson's debut novel is Treeborne.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Johnson's reply:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

My soon-to-be wife emigrated from the Soviet Union as a young girl. I decided this would be the year I dived into Russian fiction. I asked her to create a reading list and she started me off the Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of Anna Karenina. My favorite parts of Anna were the sections with Konstantin Levin, a Russian landowner who's living out his existential crisis in the countryside. Tolstoy really cut loose at the sentence level in these sections and he writes beautifully of the land and people's relationship to it, which is, if you read my debut novel, Treeborne, an interest of mine.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Having grown up in Alabama, I'm fascinated with Vietnam, which was more recently decimated by civil war. The War is all we seem to talk about in the South, but when I traveled to Vietnam folks didn't seem to want to talk about their war much. It's a young country that's rapidly changing. The characters in these stories confront generational trauma and what it means to leave home, or whether we ever can really leave it.

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

I'm excited to dive into the English-language debut of this Argentine writer. The stories take place in the shadows of Argentina's troubled history and are described as being disturbing and macabre and spooky. A perfect start to summer reading, right?
Visit Caleb Johnson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Treeborne.

--Marshal Zeringue