The novelist, whose latest book is ''Fight Night'' gets nervous when people assume she's read the classics : ''I literally start to sweat. I'll rush home to have another go at ''The Golden Bowl,'' or whatever.

.- What books are on your night stand?

A biography of Fernando Pessoa, by Richard Zenith. It's a huge, heavy book. Which only leaves room on my nightstand for one another slim book and it's called ''Little Snow Landscape,'' by the Great Robert Walser.

.- What's the last great book that you read?

'' Real Estate,'' by Deborah Levy.

.- Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

This question makes me nervous. Sometimes in interviews people will reference a certain classic assuming I've read it, and I literally start to sweat. I'll rush home to have another go at '' The Golden Bowl,'' or whatever.

.- Describe your ideal reading experience [ when, where, what, how].

Any time, in bed, alone. New fiction by a writer I love, like Laura ven den Berg, with a decent lamp, under a warm duvet, with a slight Terrence Malick type of breeze making my curtains bellow.

.- What's your favorite book no one else has heard of?

 I'd have to say it's '' Ellen's Eyes,'' a beautiful, mournful and strange book written by David Scott, the father of my son's former high school basketball teammate. It has no margins or paragraph breaks.

David and I were always at the games, but we didn't sit together. I was so intrigued with him.

Everytime the refs blew the whistle, or if there was some break in the game, David would read, even if it was just for one minute or 20 seconds. Eventually, I worked up the nerve to go over and talk to him. All we really talked about were books. It was such a nice antidote to the screaming parents in the stands.

The game became a pleasant, thumping backdrop to our bookish conversations. David told me outside the city, in the woods. At the last game of the season he gave me a copy of ''Ellen's Eyes,'' and I never saw him again. Then I heard he'd died.

Years later his son gave my son a painting David had done, and it's on my son's living room wall. It's a painting of the cityscape of Winnipeg, with the Assiniboine River in the foreground, and it shows the things in the river that are otherwise invisible to us.

.- You're organizing a literary party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Roberto Bolano, Natalia Ginzburg and Svetlana Alexievich. Who knows what we would talk about, but I'd be thrilled to be in their presence.

They're true revolutionaries and anti-authoritarians. They've been scarred, exiled, imprisoned and hunted by fascist regimes. They write intimate, funny horrifying prose in defiance of literary convention, and of tyranny. I love all of them, but would they love each other?

.- What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

''The Mennonite Treasury,'' a cookbook my Aunt Mary gave me. A lot of the recipes call for ammonia. For Mennonites it's second in importance only to the Bible.

.- Has a book brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

When I was 18 my boyfriend and I were hitchhiking around Europe. We had very little money and we were always cold and hungry.

We were in Oxford, pretending that we were university students there. My boyfriend discovered that John Fowles was signing his new book at Blackwell's. My boyfriend insisted on buying the book, I think it was ''Mantissa,'' and getting it signed.

I was so angry I sat on the curb outside and refused to go in. It was a hardcover book, expensive, we could have eaten for a week with the money he spent on it, and also it was heavy, and we had backpacks that were already heavy. I was furious.

We fought all across Western Europe about that book. And yet I have no idea where it is now.

When my boyfriend and I split up we fought again about Italo Calvino's ''If on a Winter's Night a Traveler,'' about whose copy it was and who should have it. Eventually my boyfriend was so eager to be done with me that he said : ''Take it. Just take it, goodbye.''

.- How do you organize your books?

Exactly. I should do that. They're all over the place. Recently, I took a door off one of my kitchen cupboards and lined some books up in there. It looks good, a break from that kitcheny feel, which just makes me feel inadequate and guilty.

The World Students Society thanks author Miriam Toews.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!