Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What is Philip Graham reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Philip Graham, author of The Moon, Come to Earth.

His entry begins:
I was about to start this brief essay with the sentence, “Perhaps the best of the books that I’ve read recently is . . .”

But then I glanced at the small pile of books I want to recommend, and realized that they’re all pretty terrific, and that each offers a certain pleasure that the others do not, which reminded me that I usually don’t much care for saying what my favorite books are because the list is so long—hundreds upon hundreds of books have found a niche inside me, have established a welcome internal presence that has enriched my life.

So, here are four such books that I’ve come across lately.

I first began reading The Weather Fifteen Years Ago, (Ariadne Press, 2009) by the Austrian novelist Wolf Haas, because the idea of the book is so striking: an author named Wolf Haas is interviewed, by an unnamed book reviewer, about his novel, The Weather Fifteen Years Ago, an exchange which takes up the entire 242 pages of the book. You never actually get to read the novel, just the interview about it; or, more accurately, the novel is the interview.

And it’s an entirely successful experiment. The back and forth banter between the reviewer and author, their varying interpretations here and there of what happens in the novel, the author’s inside stories about the inspiration behind certain scenes, enabled me to easily fill in the blank spaces about Vittorio Kowalski, a man who is so...[read on]
Philip Graham is the author of six books, including the story collection The Art of the Knock, the novel How to Read an Unwritten Language, a memoir of Africa, Parallel Worlds, and, most recently, an expanded collection of his McSweeney's dispatches from Lisbon, The Moon, Come to Earth. A co-founder and the current fiction editor of the literary/arts magazine Ninth Letter, he teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the low residency MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Among the praise for The Moon, Come to Earth:
Philip Graham’s The Moon, Come to Earth [is] a fascinating blend of travel writing and family memoir set in Lisbon. I love the way the book refuses to limit itself to one mode or the other, and how Graham’s various turns and twists eventually combine to make a whole much greater than the sum of the parts. He is also just a clear, enjoyable, funny writer.
--Dinty Moore
Read an excerpt from The Moon, Come to Earth, and learn more about the author and his work at Philip Graham's website. Also see his recent essay at The Millions, "Every Day I Open a Book," which is about Graham's developing love of books when young.

Writers Read: Philip Graham.

--Marshal Zeringue