September Book Talk
Hello! Welcome to September's Book Talk. I apologize for the late posting, August simply got away from me. The heat and humidity made it difficult to focus on anything. Bring on autumn!
I am very excited to introduce you to this month's guest, Tom LaGasse. About a year ago, Tom followed me on Twitter and, when I looked at his profile, I saw that he was from my area. Even better, it turned out that he worked at my favorite book store, The Hickory Stick! Talk about a small world.
The next time I visited Hickory Stick I looked for Tom and was pretty sure I recognized him, helping a customer. Pushing aside my sudden shyness I approached him and said, "Are you Tom Lagasse?" He said yes, and I smiled and said, "I'm Grace, you follow me on Twitter!" I was so pleased to meet him.
Tom is a talented poet, writer, and champion of fellow writers. His tweets are some of my favorites because he is always cheering on other creatives. You can follow him on Twitter (@tomlagasse) and Instagram (@tom_lagasse).
Now, on to our interview!
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit; Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman; and New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich.
What book first got you hooked on reading as a child?
I’m not sure this was the book that hooked me as a reader, but I would point to Banner In The Sky by James Ramsey Ullman. The thought of this novel still thrills me. Just writing this makes me excited to go read!
How do you choose what to read?
I can’t say there is a single strategy. A writer may recommend another writer; I hear a writer on a podcast; a customer at The Hickory Stick makes a suggestion; I’ll read a book review somewhere, or the cover/title interests me. Also, I use the library a lot. It allows me to take all sorts of chances.
Has a book ever changed your mind about something? What was its title and how did it change you?
I like to view myself as an active reader. When I read, it’s like I am having a conversation with the author. I read constantly to challenge the limitations of my thinking and point of view. I would say any poetry by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) is the constant reminder not to think dualistically.
Do you reread books? Which ones and why?
I seldom re-read novels, but I will revisit authors like Thoreau, any number of poets, and Thomas Merton. Often a paragraph or two will provide some inspiration for thought. With that being said, the one novel I enjoy reading over again is The Razor’s Edge.
If you could be a literary character, who would it be?
Larry Darrell, the main character in Somerset Maugham’s The Razor's Edge.
Are there any authors whose work you have read completely?
I’m all in on Ottessa Moshfegh. All of her characters are just a little off and their desires often outstrip their abilities. There is always a layer of sadness that seems at odds with bright and shiny screen culture. Prior to her, it was a long time since I did a deep dive. I think the last one was southern writer Walker Percy. Everyone should read The Moviegoer.
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to join you for dinner and why?
James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Rebecca Solnit. I have no idea what would be discussed, but I’m sure not a lot of time would be spent on the Kardashians.
If you could require every person you know to read one book, what would it be and why?
The one novel I would recommend is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. The novel is beautifully written, lush, tender and harsh. It is thoughtful and jams the past, present and future of our country together.
Are there any books on the craft of writing that you recommend to others?
The first book that interested me was Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I like both The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert if you’re looking for permission to have fun and be creative. Most recently out in paperback is John McPhee’s Draft No. 4. We could all do worse than getting writing advice from John McPhee.
Tom is a frequent contributor to Edible Nutmeg magazine where he writes about local food and food systems. His other writing has appeared in The Feminine Collective, Faith, Hope & Fiction, The Artful Mind, The Sun, and Catholic Digest. Most recently, his poems were published at www.naturewriting .com and www.iamnotasilentpoet.com. He lives in Bristol, CT and works at The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, CT.