The author whose National Book Award-winning novel, '' The Rabbit Hutch,'' will be out in paperback soon, says her family is surprised she reads physics books :

'' They like to remind me that I am bad at science.''

.- What books are on your night stand?

I'll only include the ones I'm actively reading, or else this list will get rowdy : a collection of Russian fairy tales illustrated by Ivan Bilibin and curated by Gillian Avery; '' Primeval and Other Times,'' by Olga Tokarczuk; '' The Alignment Problem,'' by Brian Christian; ''Leonora Carrington. 

'' Surrealism, Alchemy and Art,'' by Susan L. Aberth; ''Biography of X,'' by Catherine Lacey; ''Strangers to Ourselves,'' by Rachel Aviv; ''Hurricane Season,'' by Fernanda Melchor; ''The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem''; and ''Poverty, by America,'' by Matthew Desmond.

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

'' Calling a Wolf a Wolf,'' by Kaveh Akbar, specifically the penultimate poem : 

'' I Won't Lie This plague of Gratitude.''

Akbar alchemizes pain into beauty line after line, but it was an unexpected evocation of hope that made me cry. In this poem, the speaker is thunderstruck by a newfound ''plague of gratitude''.

The speaker says : “Not long ago I was hard to even/hug ... I had to learn to love people one at a time/singing hey diddle diddle will you suffer me/a little ... now I am cheery/and Germanic like a drawer full/of strudel.”

Akbar describes a small psychological sanctuary - a relief, permanent or fleeting, from everything that has haunted the speaker until now.

The poem plugged me into that first miraculous flash of hope that you enjoy after a long storm of bad brain chemistry. The moment you remember that it can be enjoyable to simply exist.

.- The last book that made you furious?

A many come to mind.I guess I'm often furious? I'm certainly reading three impeccably researched works of nonfiction that are informing previously amorphous concerns. '' Poverty, by America,'' by Matthew Desmond, investigates structurally engineered poverty.

One of the many memorable facts that this book dilenates is that America spends over twice as much on tax benefits for the upper class as it does on national defense. 

'' Empire of Pain,'' by Patrick Radden Keefe, makes me enraged about the Sackler family, of course, but more generally about how vulnerable American health care and pharmaceuticals systems are to bad actors - worse, poorly regulated capitalism incentivizes bad actors to do harm.

'' The Alignment Problem,'' by Brian Christian, makes me furious about the myopic tech boys currently pursuing immortality and godlike dominance by summoning the existential threat of A.I. into the world.

They are facilitated by an absence of legal restrictions and the primeval excuse that if We don't do it first, They will.

.- What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

My family is always shocked by how many books on neuroscience and quantum physics I've amassed. They like to remind me that I am bad at science.

Probably most surprising is that I'm still under the delusion that i will someday read all 1,500 pages of ''The Matter With Things,'' by Iain McGilchrist - a blend of neuroscience, metaphysics and epistemology about the hemispheres of the brain and the nature of consciousness.

I think you start levitating as soon as you finish it.

.- What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

When I graduated college my good friend Alex gave me a beautiful, professionally bound copy of the novella I wrote for my thesis. He even got a mutual friend to blurb it.

The novella itself is a catastrophe - a cluttered story about four characters from different centuries saddled with shared omniscient narration who meet on Purgatory that resembles postindustrial Indiana. Eventually, it collapses into metafictional chaos. 

Flawed as the project is, I had transferred my 21-year-old spirit into pages, and Alex know that if I could hold a leather bound of this effort in my hands, if I could see my name engraved in gold on the spine, some psychological chasm between the life I had and the life I wanted to begin to close.

For years, as I submitted my fiction and accumulated rejections, losing faith that I would ever publish it, I would catch a glimpse of this book on my shelf, and its presence would nourish me. It remains one of the most cherished gifts I've ever received.

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

Dante Alighieri, Hildegerd von Bingen and Anne Carson. I'd rather watch them dine together than participate; I'd have a panic attack if I had to moderate that conversation or cook them food.

But I have a feeling that it would be a very quiet dinner, even if they all spoke the same language.

I can see them elegantly slicing asparagus on their plates, abstemious drinkers submerged in the deep ends of their turbulent intellects. But then each of them would write a masterpiece about it.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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