Shelf Life: Elizabeth McCracken

Welcome to Shelf Life,’s books column, during which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a suggestion from the writers in our series, who, such as you (because you’re here), love books. Perhaps one in every of their favorite titles will grow to be one in every of yours, too.

Elizabeth McCracken’s eighth book, The Hero of This Book (Ecco) follows a author reflecting on her late mother’s life and on their relationship as she wanders through London. Details may blur the road between fact and fiction, nevertheless it is a novel.

The Boston-born, Austin-based writer has also written a memoir, short story collections (two longlisted for the National Book Award), and National Book Award finalist The Giant’s House, which is being adapted for film by Nick Hornby and directed by Andy Serkis. A graduate of and instructor at Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the James Michener Chair in Fiction on the University of Texas, Austin and the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts amongst others.

She played candlepin bowling in a league growing up; thought she may be a poet and studied playwriting with Derek Walcott; holds an MLIS (master’s in library information science) and was a public librarian; once won $500 value of books from Prairie Lights as a grad student in Iowa City; was quoted in; Tweets swimming reports from Barton Springs pool; carries an unsmart phone in order to not be distracted by the web; has lived in France; and skim Anna Karenina in 16 hours.

Likes: hotel rooms, ventriloquism, Kaweco fountain pens, driving within the UK, puppets, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and semi-colons. Dislikes: elves, having her picture taken, occasional backstrokers. Immerse yourself in one in every of her book recs.

The book that…

…made me weep uncontrollably:

Our Andromeda by Brenda Shaughnessy. Full disclosure: I even have never wept uncontrollably at a book, or at a movie, or any murals. I’m hardhearted. I never cry at things are simply sad; I cry at beauty and strangeness and the human willingness to search for meaning—not transcendence, but meaning—at difficult times. Brenda Shaughnessy’s Our Andromeda, a book of poems, at all times moves me to tears.

….I read in a single sitting, it was that good:

I read Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half . It was the primary book I read through the early days of the pandemic that showed me a world so vivid, with characters so entirely real, I fell into it and out of my dull life.

…helped me through a breakup/loss:

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, an anthology edited by Kevin Young. Poetry is what I require if I’m unmoored.

…shaped my worldview:

Before I read the short stories of Grace Paley (first in Enormous Changes on the Last Minute, after which in her Collected Stories, I may need thought a brief story could do just one or two things, and never—as Paley’s stories do—move a reader to tears or laughter, describe the way in which people live and talk, be surreal and true-to-life at the identical time, and, above all, ask, quite literally, how we’re to live on the planet.

…I like to recommend again and again:

Riva Lehrer’s Golem Girl, a superb book about an interesting, artistic life, illustrated with the writer’s astounding paintings.

…I’d give to a recent graduate:

Lynda Barry’s What It Is. Useful for anyone who wants to make use of art—writing, drawing, the pen across the page—to know life, after which to make things.

…made me laugh out loud:

Paul Lisicky’s Later: My Life At The Fringe of the World is so good and stuffed with lust and intelligence and understanding of what it means to grieve and end up at the identical time. It also includes a bit in regards to the writer being dragooned right into a parade while wearing a big hat shaped like a soft-serve ice cream cone that makes me laugh just eager about it.

…I’d like became a Netflix show:

Paul Takes the Type of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor would make an awesome series: funny, humane, episodic, stuffed with event, and in addition sex, and in addition joy and complexity.

…I last bought:

Elizabeth Crane’s This Story Will Change, a memoir by an exquisite fiction author.

…features the good book jacket:

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Lee, which is every bit as strange and exquisite inside, a page turner about female friendship and the character of authorship.

…has one of the best title:

My answer for this has held regular for years: David Bowman’s Let the Dog Drive.

…contains a character I like to hate:

Bastard Out of Carolina. What’s higher than a detestable character? A detestable child character. I like every little thing about Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, including Shannon Pearl, an awful morbid mean child who lives still in my heart.

…is a master class on dialogue:

Richard Price is criminally underrated as a novelist. Lush Life is my favorite of his books, but they’re all stuffed with funny, frightening, unbelievable dialogue.

…has the best ending:

Stephen Kuusisto’s Planet of the Blind is a good looking book, and the top of it’s gorgeous and unforgettable, but what hit me like a gong nearly 25 years ago once I first read it, and still resounds in my head, is the ending of the acknowledgments: “My biggest debt of gratitude is to the Burkett family of Fairfax, Virginia. Bill, Reba, Bill Jr. and his sister Anne Marie raised my guide dog. After which they let her go.”

…describes a house I’d need to live in or a spot I’d need to visit:

Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield is one in every of my favorite characters in all of fiction. I’d wish to visit her house (though Dickens is a superb author of interiors, amongst other things, so in some ways I feel I even have).

…I consider literary comfort food:

Joseph Mitchell’s Up on the Old Hotel never fails me. He was a Latest Yorker author with a keenness for eccentrics and oddballs. Me, too.

…surprised me:

I even have an imaginary resume of things I’ve done which have touched on the literary world with no effort to myself. My first entry and maybe favorite: I used to be the primary person to ever read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I read it in manuscript while sitting up at a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts. All of her books are astonishing, in fact, but I still remember the sensation of being entirely pinned to my barstool, not knowing what would come next, or how she did it.

…that holds the recipe to a favourite dish:

My mother loved the Mary Poppins books a lot it’s not possible for me to unwind my very own love of them from hers: I like them because she loved them and as she would say, she was at all times right. She gave me a duplicate of Mary Poppins within the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story. I cooked its very English recipes on a regular basis: Zodiac cake (chocolate, and decorated with stars), roast chicken. But my favorite recipe was for baked custard, because my mother liked that, too. Sweet, and stuffed with protein—my mother was an awesome champion of protein—nursery food, but magic, too, the way in which it set within the oven.

Bonus query: If I could live in any library or bookstore on the planet, it will be:

The Boston Public Library, with its dioramas and murals. Books will sustain me 98% of the time, but sometimes I require a diorama.

Our AndromedaThe Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Now 33% Off

The Art of Losing

The Art of Losing

Now 41% Off

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

Enormous Changes on the Last Minute

Now 34% Off

The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories

Now 37% Off

Golem GirlWhat It IsLaterPaul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Paul Takes the Type of a Mortal Girl

This Story Will Change

Riza Cruz is an editor and author based in Latest York.

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