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Vol. 38, No. 18


Booktalk, 6/05/08

Lee Abbott is Humanities Distinguished Professor in English and teaches prose writing in the Creative Writing Program. He is the author of several books, including Love Is the Crooked Thing and a collection of short stories, All Things, All at Once, and has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and other journals.

What are your five favorite books and why?

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
A bewitching novel that reminds us how present the past is.
The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty
Good cheer from the mistress of Southern humor.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
A poet picks on politics.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
The brutal made lyrical.
Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
Vietnam comes to America as three kilos of nearly pure heroin.

Who is your favorite character in literature?

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom from the Updike novels: A hero hankering for an “it” always out of reach.

What's your "guilty pleasure" – a book you love but don't often talk about because it's not "serious" literature?

I’m a fan of crime fiction: Dennis Lehane, George P. Pelcanos, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Elmore Leonard, Richard Price — the grittier, the better.

What is the last book you bought?

Savage Art by Robert Polito: The biography of Big Jim Thompson, the most hard-boiled of the hard-boiled “mystery” pulp writers.

What book would you most want your kids to read? 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Still the most accurate “reading” of America and race.

What classic novel was a disappointment to you?

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: A lot of fuss over a fish, complete with ham-handed symbolism and delivered to us in the prose of an awfully serious 8-year old.

What magazines do you subscribe to and why?

Harper’s, The Georgia Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek and many, many others: I like to know my world by what the smart set is saying about it.

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