Rosellen Brown is a Chicago-based novelist and short story writer.
Some Deaths in the Delta and Other Poems, Civil Wars, Before and After
Her stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories, 1984. Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize (for Civil Wars)
Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?
Play: Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Book? Impossible to choose! Maybe Studs Terkel’s Division Street, not yet outdated, to show how a democratic society can function by enacting endless curiosity and silencing no one.
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?
My mother, probably, who did not get past eighth grade but read the A.A. Milne books to me, and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry. My own reading was helter-skelter and little of it was great literature—I’d be embarrassed to come up with any names—but I took home from the library as many books as I was allowed to check out at one time (ten, I think) in my bike basket and finished them as fast as I could. And in the earliest grades, our school librarian had us “review and recommend” books to each other every week, which I found thrilling.
Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?
The Russians: Chekhov (naturally), Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Others: Kafka. Alice Munro. And as a writer, possibly one of the most important books I read at exactly the right time was Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart, to teach me how to deal quietly, in beautiful prose, with emotionally intricate, even passionate drama.