A couple of these were tough!
1. What book is on your nightstand now?
The end table by my couch is the equivalent, and right now there's Dante's Inferno, W.H. Auden's The Dyer's Hand, my kindle, and an instructor's edition of an essay anthology I got for free.
2. What was the last truly great book that you read?
The first book that popped into my head was Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son, but more recently I read Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.
3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?
Virginia Woolf. I'd like to discuss poetry because I find her writing very lyric, but there were no real poets in the Bloomsbury Group, which I find curious.
4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I think my shelves are pretty eclectic, so nothing, I'd think.
5. How do you organize your personal library?
I have two proper bookshelves and a table with shelves. One bookshelf is all poetry and writing about poetry, and the other is fiction with a stack of miscellaneous anthologies, nonfiction, and drama on top. On the floor next to it is a stack of genre books: YA, fantasy, some SF. The table has literary journals, coffee table books, manga, comics, and books on popular culture.
6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
Oh, a lot. But the one that actually embarrasses me is The Scarlet Letter, a staple of American literature. I was just never assigned it in school and haven't gotten around to it yet. But I do like what little Hawthorne I've read!
7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Hm...I DNF a biography of Bowie recently, and that's saying a lot. There was just too much conjecture about his feelings on things.
Disappointing or overrated...I thought Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer, was terribly boring and DNF. Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train didn't grip me much either. And I couldn't get into A Song of Ice and Fire as a series either; I don't do misery porn.
8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
You know, I don't know! What am I drawn to...For me it can be more about style and voice. It's easier to describe what I don't like. That includes stories set in posh areas of NYC, or privileged families and characters with personal problems generally. I'm not a huge reader of romance, historical fiction, memoirs, history, or dudebro books (i.e. books by dudes about dudes having midlife crises or crises of masculinity generally; this was a big thing in the 90s.).
9. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
I think Obama is pretty well read, and I know we share the same opinion of Heart of Darkness (not favorable). I suppose I'd choose some contemporary poetry, because many people aren't up on that. Let's say Jamaal May's Hum, gorgeous and very American. (And maybe I'd slip him my own chapbook. ;))
10. What do you plan to read next?
Probably either Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh or Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan, both on my themed reading list for the year.