Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the tuesday interview: peter orner

I used to carry my copy of Peter Orner's Esther Stories around with me in case I ever got stuck somewhere without something to read. I could open it up to any page and just fall in. Then I heard he was going to read at Dog Eared Books, so I packed in with a bunch of other people and followed along with my book in my lap. Now he has this amazing new book, but he still feels like our own neighborhood storyteller.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Peter Orner: I have
a new novel out, so I wish I could say I was working at the moment. I think I'm in the process of saying goodbye to characters I've spent so much time with. They are slowly fading away to me and having lives of their own as they get read (or not read) by other people...What interested me for so many years (the book took about seven) was how my people seemed constitutionally incapable of learning from the past.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

PO: The South African artist
William Kentridge I find him amazing; his huge imagination, the way he uses history and politics in his work.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

PO: A novel by great Nebraskan novelist Wright Morris called
Plains Song, I re-read it every year. This and Moby Dick. And also the sea stories of Alvaro Mutis.

RQD: What are you reading now?

PO: Right now I am reading The Book of Ebenzer Le Page, one of the strangest novels I've ever come across, and loving it. Its about a guy on an island off the UK who remembers nearly every single detail about his life. I can't get enough of it.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
PO: The Phantom Tollbooth. I often think about it at least every day, how easy it seemed in that book to pass from one reality to another. When we're a kid and we read a book like this, we almost take it for granted. These days it's like I'm wandering around looking for that weird and wonderful tollbooth. Where did it go?

1 comment:

Elana K Arnold said...

I remember The Phantom Tollbooth! It was absolutely important to me, too... the fun Juster seemed to be having. In graduate school writing felt a lot less fun than Juster made it seem, and it's nice these days to remember and return to the joy of language.