This month’s Bay Reader is Lisa Eveleigh, co-owner of AdLib Communications and a photographer. She earned a master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina and served for a decade as the managing editor of the prestigious literary journal, Southern Cultures. Lisa currently lives in the Bay with her husband and three children. She is proud to be a member of the Bay Book Babes Book Group.
What books are currently on your night stand? Too many! I'm an ADD reader. I'm currently switching between Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (book club), The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett and two books written by friends, one a page-turning history that's also a mystery published by Oxford University Press and one a self-published satire. There's definitely a difference there.
Who is your favorite novelist of all time, and your favorite novelist today? I really love Virginia Wolf's To the Lighthouse, more for how it's written than what it's about, except that it's about everyday life in a particular place and time. I prefer reading books on that subject rather than books that draw upon great events. I feel the same way about Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples. It's really hard for me to pick a favorite, but these two writers are important to me. I don't have a favorite living novelist – yet.
Who is your favorite Mississippi writer(s)? I'm a straight-up traditionalist here. I go for the two world-class literary geniuses to come out of the state: Faulkner and Welty.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves? I've been reading nonfiction on new developments in brain science. I Mammal and Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. What’s the last book you read that made you laugh? The most recent book that made me laugh out loud is Jennifer' Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011), which is a novel comprised of interconnected stand-alone stories. Especially the story Kissing Mother Superior. I haven't been reading funny books lately. (I'd love some suggestions from Cleaver readers.) But I reread A Confederacy of Dunces not so long ago and laughed out loud again. Lorrie Moore's stories have always made me laugh. With both of these writers, the laughter is bitter sweet. Faulkner can be unstoppably hilarious and Shakespeare too.
What’s the last book you read that made you cry? Most recently, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler made me a little teary. The book that always, as in everysingletime always, makes me cry is E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, and I'm also always reading it out loud to a child. (Probably a much more disturbing experience for the child than for me). I cried when I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Sherwood Anderson's Winesberg Ohio and of course Death of a Salesman. (It didn't help that my dad was in insurance.)
What kind of reader were you as a child? I remember falling in love with Jinx the cat in second grade, and I've been looking for him ever since. I collected Nancy Drew mysteries. I really loved the public library in the small town where I grew up, Gastonia, North Carolina. My mother would drop me off as a kid and later, when it moved from downtown to the suburbs across from the local museum, I would ride my bike there. It was a big free space to explore ideas – all pre-internet, of course. The quiet and the air conditioning were added appeal. As a kid, I worked my way through biographies. I loved the “Little House” books. I later had an intense science fiction phase - Ray Bradbury especially. The library was big enough that anyone could browse in privacy, great for reading Judy Blume novels and later on the Kinsey report, or whatever you wanted to read, which was all pretty liberating in a small southern town in the 1960s and 70s.
If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be? I can't seem to answer this question. I pull bits and pieces from a lot of places. Professionally, Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! taught me quite a bit about the difficulty of really understanding history, which was useful when I worked as an editor for a nonfiction journal called Southern Cultures. In that book, Faulkner and our local historian Charles Gray aren't too far apart; to paraphrase Charles, history is what you and I agree is true.
You’re hosting a dinner with 3 writers (living or dead). Who’s invited? I would mix William Shakespeare with Gertrude Stein and Virginia Wolf just see what happens.
What book do you find yourself returning to again and again? I go back to Theodore Roethke's Collected Poems pretty regularly (the one with the Georgia O'Keeffe painting on the cover). He's so very lyrical. I can go back to Shakespeare again and again. I've also been thinking about rereading Jonathan Franzens' The Corrections for the third time. Considering the book was published in 2001, that's a bit obsessive. That book also really makes laugh and is sad, too.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet? War and Peace. Of course. I also was a member of a Proust reading group in a French restaurant where I worked. We read a little and drank a lot, although some did better than others.
What do you plan to read next? War and Peace. Of course. No, just kidding, David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is actually waiting on the nightstand.
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