Dagoberto Gilb is an Austin, Texas-based short story writer and novelist.
The Magic of Blood, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña, The Flowers, Hecho en Tejas, Before the End, After the Beginning
1994 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award and PEN Faulkner finalist (The Magic of Blood);
2003 finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award (Gritos); 2008 winner of the PEN Southwest Book Award (Hecho en Tejas)
Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders and why?
So hard not to want to pick books that mattered so much to me, like Native Son by Richard Wright, or Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Working by Studs Terkel, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver, Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. How can anyone not mention El llano en llamas (The Burning Plain) by Juan Rulfo? But here are mine:
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, a truly American novel about the American character, drama, humor and bravado. And The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter. As a fan of the short story, and of what the East Coast calls "regional" writing, there is none better than her. I am also fond of writers whose lives were large, too, stories themselves, and both my selections are bold on my kind of billboard.
WHO IN YOUR CHILDHOOD—FOR EXAMPLE, PARENT OR TEACHER—ENCOURAGED YOU TO READ BOOKS, AND WHICH ONE OR TWO BOOKS DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FONDLY?
Books were not much of a presence in my house or with people I knew, which may explain why I came so late to them. That I did surprises even me, but it may equally explain the ferocity with which I went for them when I did.
Which books by writers from other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?
Really unfair to have to choose which book by Dostoevsky was most important to me—The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, The Possessed—but I'm going with The Idiot. Also impossible to not want to select one of many by either Kafka or B. Traven, but neither of them are exactly or clearly German, and almost impossible for me to not want to say Camus, the immigrant Frenchman. I am forced to pick what I find the most stunning combination of various arts, The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht.