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Jess Walter about trying not to hoard beloved books

Jess Walter about trying not to hoard beloved books

WALTER: I just started J. Robert Lennon’s novel “Subdivision”, which is so weird and funny. I also read George R. Stewart’s “Storm,” a 70-year-old novel that anticipates fiction about climate change. It has the most evocative description of a storm in the West in the 1940s. Then I read “The Undocumented Americans,” an amazing book by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. A character in my next novel is undocumented, so I read as many books as I can about it.

BOOKS: How did you come across “Storm”?

WALTER: I love the New York Review of Books Classics. I signed up to get one a month, but I think it was a trick to try to kill me. They are toppling over from my bedside table and are about to crush me. I’ve discovered some amazing books, such as Lenora Carrington’s “The Hearing Trumpet”, this very funny, surreal book. The one that convinced me to subscribe was John Williams’ “Stoner”. I appreciate so much that they are constantly breaking the world for books you have not heard of. Sometimes you feel like reading someone you would not encounter on a book trip. I’ve also gotten to the point where I treat the book everyone talks about as the restaurant everyone talks about. I’ll give it another year and see how the tongues hold. It’s nice to read a book when everyone has moved on from it.

BOOKS: What books have you done that with?

WALTER: “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee. All the writers talked about it at one point. When I got to it, I saw why. It has such a generous and thoughtful depiction of writing. I also read Amor Towles “A Lord in Moscow” after all had.

BOOKS: What was your last best read?

WALTER: I’m a big fan of Percival Everett. His book “Phone”, even though it was not his best book, stuck with me because of his ingenuity. Esi Edugyan’s “Washington Black” was another book that really stuck with me, like “A Lord in Moscow.”

BOOKS: Were you a great reader as a child?

WALTER: When I was five, I got a stick in my left eye and could not play outside for a while. I started devouring books about cowboys, dinosaurs, and polar explorations. One day I was walking away from the house and when I came back I told my mother that I had been to the library. She thought I figured it out until the library called to say my removal loan had arrived.

BOOKS: Do you own many books?

WALTER: Too many. My wife got one of the small libraries in front of our house. Enough people know where I live, I feel like I have to put good books out there. It has been a great way to pair down, but people also put their books in there. Someone put Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less” in, one of the books I had deliberately delayed reading. I stole it from my own little library.

BOOKS: Do you collect books?

WALTER: I would try to gather all the books that were really meaningful to me in hardcover. I quickly gave up that project, but I have books like Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” Don DeLillo’s novels, and Toni Morrison’s books.

BOOKS: Why did you give up?

WALTER: At some point, there is something wildly obsessed with having to own books that you have already read. There was an epic yard sale here at a bookstore. He had 15 copies of the same book. When I turned 53, the age my mother died, my own mortality made me not want to leave my children with it. I tried to loosen my fingers a little and let the books go out into the world where they belong.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the latest author of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and can be reached at [email protected]


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