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October 5th, 2011 BEN WATERHOUSE | Featured Stories
 

Author! Author!

Wordstock writers in their own words.

culturefeat.wordstock_3748TOP ROW (from left): Isaac Marion, Craig Thompson BOTTOM ROW: Bharati Mukherjee, Jerry Aronson, Lauren Oliver - Photos courtesy of Wordstock
This Saturday and Sunday, the Oregon Convention Center will be overrun by some 150 novelists, journalists, poets and cartoonists for the 2011 Wordstock book fair. The big names on the marquee include Jennifer Egan, author of this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad; Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient; and nature writer Barry Lopez. None of them responded to our emailed questions, but the following five authors, all of whom we find just as interesting as that Ondaatje guy, did: 


Craig Thompson

Thompson, a Portland cartoonist, is best known for his enormous and renowned graphic novel Blankets. His new book, Habibi, was released last week. Thompson appears on the McMenamins stage at 3 pm Saturday.

WW: So, what are you reading these days?  

Craig Thompson: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey.

Is it any good?  

Are you kidding? It’s one of the best novels ever! And I’m discovering it for the very first time. And, of course, it churns up plenty of longing for Northwest landscapes—which I’m missing on book tour. 

What was the first book that changed your life? 

Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. The correlations with my own work may be obvious. I read it at age 20 when I was really wrestling with falling from my evangelical Christian faith. 

What’s the most beautiful word in English? 

Water. 

What’s the best idea you’ve had rejected by an editor? 

The only time I’ve had in-depth collaboration with an editor was while drawing children’s comics and illustrations for Nickelodeon Magazine. And they constantly edited out any moments of real danger or characters being consumed. And they required an obvious punchline rather than the “so nonfunny it’s funny” humor that amuses me. Thankfully, they were cool with fart jokes.  

Fill in the blank: Kids today are... 

All right.


Lauren Oliver

There are many writers of young-adult fiction at this year’s Wordstock. Oliver, author of Before I Fall, Delirium and the new middle-grade fantasy Liesl and Po, is one of the best known. Oliver appears in the panel “Teens Facing Fears in Fiction” on the Wieden + Kennedy stage at 5 pm Saturday, and on the Knowledge Universe Children’s Stage at 3 pm Sunday.

WW: What are you reading? 

Lauren Oliver: A Game of Thrones, much to my fiancé’s distress. All I can speak about is Westeros and Winterfell. I’m not sure he realized he was marrying a fantasy geek!

What was the first book you remember changing your life?

Alphabears! It’s the most beautiful illustrated book, and reading it (with my mom) was the first time I’d had the experience of falling into the world of a book, of really feeling its world and its beauty as though I was there. Granted, it was one of the first books I ever read. 

The loveliest word in English?

Lyricism. Or pasta. 

What have you written today?

Yesterday, I wrote [this]: “Michael felt as though he’d accidentally ingested a thousand grasshoppers, and now they were all tumbling around in his stomach, and climbing up his throat. In the short time since they had crossed the red dust road, almost all of the light had swirled out of the sky, as though someone had opened a giant drain at the horizon. Now the woods around them were full of shifting dark masses, leaves that hissed as the wind moved through them, and darting black shadows.”


Isaac Marion

Marion’s first novel, Warm Bodies, is about a zombie who falls in love with a living girl. A film adaptation directed by Jonathan Levine is currently in production. Marion appears on the McMenamins stage at 2 pm Saturday with R.A. Salvatore and noon Sunday in the panel “Vampires Are So Last Season.” 

WW: What are you reading?

Isaac Marion: I’m halfway through A Better Angel, a short story collection by Chris Adrian.

Is it any good? 

It’s really good. Very quiet, matter-of-fact tellings of very dark, insane stories. Chris Adrian is a practicing Christian, which is weird to me given how thoroughly fucked up, impure and unredemptive his stories are, but I guess I was writing pretty dark stuff during the twilight of my religious life, too. 

What’s the view outside your window today?

I live in an RV, so the “today” in this question is important. Today the view is the nice suburban townhouse I’ve been parked in front of for three days. They’ve been remarkably patient with me, considering how noisy my generator is.

What’s the worst line you ever wrote? 

My worst line would be pretty much any given line from the first novel I wrote, a thousand-page, anime-inspired fantasy epic that I finished shortly before my 18th birthday. 

Kids today are...

More adult than many adults.


Bharati Mukherjee

Born in Calcutta, Mukherjee left India to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she met her husband, the Canadian writer Clark Blaise. She has written eight novels and two short-story collections. Mukherjee appears on the McMenamins stage at 1 pm Saturday.

WW: What are you reading?

Bharati Mukherjee: I’ve just started the galley of a novel titled In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner. It’s about a young Cambodian girl’s experience of the excesses of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Is it any good?

So far, yes. The setting is of lush countryside ravaged by war. 

What was the first book you remember changing your life? 

Anton Chekhov’s complete works. I first read Chekhov as a 14-year-old in Kolkata in the mid-1950s. Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), my hometown, was going through enormous social and economic changes. I could empathize with Chekhov’s characters. 

What’s the view outside your window today? 

I’m sitting with my laptop at a bistro table in my kitchen in the Cole Valley neighborhood (formerly Upper Haight) in San Francisco. It’s a warm, sunny late September afternoon, particularly welcome, because yesterday was chilly and foggy. The kitchen is on the second floor, and through the wall of two glass windows and a glass door I can see my wildly overgrown backyard, the solar-panel-equipped roofs of neighbors’ one- and two-family homes, and in the distance, the spires of a church.


Jerry Aronson

The documentary producer and director received an Oscar nomination in 1979 for his short film The Divided Trail and has recently released an updated version of his acclaimed 1994 feature, The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, which will be screened at 7 pm Sunday, Oct. 9, at Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave. Aronson appears on the Attic Institute Stage at 5 pm Saturday.

WW: What are you reading? 

Jerry Aronson: I am re-reading Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems.

What was the first film you remember changing your life?

Again, it was a documentary: Don’t Look Back, the film by D.A. Pennebaker about Bob Dylan’s first tour to England.

The loveliest word in English?

Project (as in projection).

Who’s the worst person in America right now? 

Rupert Murdoch.

Kids today are...

Searching, driven and confused.

What are you working on now?

I am co-producing a documentary film about climate change about a photographer who has been doing time-lapse imagery to prove how fast the glaciers in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska are melting due to man’s influence. The film is called Chasing Ice.


GO: The Wordstock Book Fair, 10 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 8-9, at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., wordstockfestival.com.

 
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