Interview: Brandon Taylor enjoys reading romance and European history

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Interview: Brandon Taylor enjoys reading romance and European history

Nothing on the bedside table – I keep my pile on the kitchen table. I have a recent reprint of Edith Wharton’s Son of the Front and an edition of The Forsyth Saga as well as some Emile Zola biographies.

CV Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years’ War. It’s sprawling and masterful and has the feel of a great novel with so many brilliantly drawn characters. I can’t get enough of him.

Most classic novels are classic novels that I recently read for the first time. But one in particular is “Anna Karenina.”

I find bad prose unforgivable, frankly. Like, bad prose is not the same as prose that is not brilliant or good or whatever. Bad prose to me is bad thinking. This is the result of some critical failure on the part of the writer and cannot be circumvented at all. So if the prose is bad, the book is bad, there’s no way through it for me.

All I need is time. Right now it’s the thing I’m craving the most.

The Court and the Castle by Rebecca West. It’s this fascinating book of lectures she gave at Yale in the 1950s on the relationship between the individual and power as read in literature from Hamlet to Kafka, I believe. It’s just so funny and exactly even when it’s wrong. If there is any justice in the world, some publisher will reissue it.

Also, Leslie Fiedler’s sublime book series Love and Death in the American Novel, What Was Literature?, and Waiting for the End should be required reading in all serious literature classrooms. Absolutely mind blowing stuff.

Jeremy O. Harris, Jordan Tannahill, Will Arbury, Vinson Cunningham, Jennifer Wilson, Lauren Michelle Jackson, Doreen St. Felix, Derrick Austin, Parul Segal.

I usually have a big history book on the go when I’m working on a book. Sometimes works of literary or social criticism. I have a hard time absorbing modern fiction as I write, so I reread a lot of Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Jane Austen for pleasure.

I was reading Claire Dederer’s Monsters and realized that Jenny Diski was Doris Lessing’s adopted daughter! I was so shocked that I stopped reading Monsters and went to look it up. incredible

I wish more people would write about evil people. I understand why many Americans don’t. Toni Morrison said that great thing about good being more interesting and evil being boring, and I respect her enormously, but on this point we disagree sharply.

Or maybe it’s just that when I read modern fiction, I don’t feel like it takes place in a moral universe where evil is even remotely possible, and that makes the books boring. In the absence of evil, good means nothing.

Never not even a little bit.

Learning about the authors mostly means I can’t tell other people publicly that I’m reading them, but that doesn’t change anything about my own ethical stance on the work.

Moral depth.

I don’t know if I can separate the two or want to separate them. Brilliantly argued work excites me. Brilliant emotional work makes me think. The two are matched, always matched.

My two first loves are large books on European history and romance novels. Indeed, the two have a lot in common! The only two things I avoid are military history and American history, which I’m sure are very important, but I find them a total snooze fest.

My best attempt at alphabetical order.

For some reason people always seem surprised that I (or anyone else) read Sigmund Freud – I don’t understand why this is surprising because everyone should read Freud – so I guess I should say that the whole series of Freud’s writings as reissued by Penguin Modern Classics.

I received a beautiful set of Jane Austen novels from my British publisher when my first book was a finalist for the Booker Prize. They come in this cute little case and have beautiful painted pages. The books themselves are quite small, so sometimes I take them out and pretend I’m in the Regency living room.

My family didn’t like books or reading. As a result, the only books that were really close at hand were my aunt’s textbooks and home nursing handbook. Then I somehow got hold of a romance novel and taught myself to read using it. As a result, I missed out on the usual price for a children’s book. No one read to anyone in my neighborhood. But I really loved those early romance novels quite a bit, and as a result I have this strong loyalty to Kathleen E. Udiwis.

I’d invite Mavis Gallant because she’s my favorite author and I have a feeling she’ll have some really sharp and snarky things to say about the party after everyone leaves. I would also invite Elizabeth Bishop because she will absolutely hate it and I have a feeling it will be funny for her to watch her hate the party I’m throwing. And probably Laurie Colwin, because she’ll probably be funny and nice, and I want to ask her about her opinions on strong coffee.

Right now, the pile of galleys on my desk is waiting for an entrance. But for the books I can i say I haven’t read Villette or Agnes Grey, which are embarrassing not to read if your friends are mostly homosexual poets.

I’m in the midst of reading all of Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macard novels, and after I finish La Bête Humane, I’ll read Germinal.

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