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New York Times By the Book: Dana Spiotta

Dana Spiotta Loves Coming Across Jokes in Really Old Books

New York Times – By the Book

“I feel such connection to the human who made it, which delights and moves me,” says the novelist, whose new book is “Wayward.” “If you can write a joke that is still funny in 100 years, you are great.”

What books are on your night stand?

I have several stacks of books on my night stand: Melissa Febos’s “Girlhood,” Tove Ditlevsen’s “The Faces,” Elissa Washuta’s “White Magic,” Jonathan Lethem’s “The Arrest,” Dorothy Wickenden’s “The Agitators,” Upton Sinclair’s “Boston” (Vol. 1), William Patrick Patterson’s “Ladies of the Rope” and Christine Schutt’s “Nightwork.”

What’s the last great book you read?

I read so many great books in this pandemic year. Eimear McBride’s “A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing” devastated me. John Keene’s “Counternarratives,” brilliant. Katherine Anne Porter’s “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” and Zadie Smith’s “Intimations” are pandemic specific and beautiful. Katie Kitamura’s “Intimacies” stayed with me, unsettling, mysterious, as did Don DeLillo’s “The Silence.” Anthony Veasna So’s “Afterparties” is radically new and hilarious. Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider,” so clarifying and potent. I wish I had read it years ago. Joshua Ferris’s “A Calling for Charlie Barnes” is terrific. Rachel Kushner’s “The Hard Crowd” and Jo Ann Beard’s “Festival Days” are both stunning collections. Saidiya Hartman’s “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments”: Its hybrid form is miraculous.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I read the Tolstoy short story “Master and Man” for the first time via George Saunders’s analysis in his great book, “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain.” That story throttled me — a breathtaking reading experience. And then Saunders shows you how Tolstoy did it, which is a gift, truly. Read the full interview at the New York Times.

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