For the Love of Sarcasm OR Garth Stein takes the BD Spotlight

December 15, 2015

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Describe a teacher who had an impact on you.

My high school drama teacher, Chuck Fick, had a major impact on me.  First, I think all writers should take acting classes.  Acting teaches you about intention and motivation, which can always be a problem when writing fiction—the dreaded deus ex machina!  Secondly, as a person, Chuck was dedicated, generous, and inspiring…all good things for a teacher!

Which writer inspired you to become a writer yourself?

My mother.  She wrote children’s stories when I was young, so she modeled the writing life.  Otherwise, I have to go back to the theater:  Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Bertolt Brecht…

What would you like Book Dumpling readers to know about you?

I actually love dumplings.  There’s this restaurant in Seattle, Din Tai Fung, and they have these meat dumplings with chicken broth inside, so when you bite them you get a mouthful of love…  Just saying.

Do you have any funny stories regarding writing your past book?

There are always funny stories about writing books, but most of them can’t be told in public.  The famous story about The Art of Racing in the Rain is that I sent the manuscript to my agent and he said, “No one will read a book narrated by a dog.”  So I fired him.  That’s a funny story, but I’ve told it so many times, I don’t find it funny any more.  It’s like when you eat too much chocolate, you just don’t like it any more.

What is the last, great book that you read and to which type of readers would you recommend it – try to be as specific as possible when you recommend the book 🙂

Let’s see…  I’ve read a bunch of Hemingway, but I never read For Whom the Bell Tolls, so I picked it up this fall.  I loved it.  A book filled with affection for a land and a people, and yet also a book that fills the reader with dread, because we know how it’s going to end.  Another book I thought was fabulous is Ruth Ozeki’s latest, A Tale for the Time Being. I read these back-to-back, so I would recommend them to people interested in other cultures.  Spanish and Japanese, in the case of these books.

Which one book would you recommend that almost everyone try to read at least once?

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  (Come on…you thought I would suggest someone else’s book?)

What types of books would you suggest your protagonists read? (Thanks to Jennifer Warren at CBC for this awesome idea).

I can’t even imagine.  Hmm…

Jenna in Raven Stole the Moon would read the classic Modernists:  Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Faulker, James Joyce.

Evan, in How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets, probably reads mostly graphic novels and comic books, with the occasional biography thrown in.  I’m pretty sure he read 50 Shades of Gray and found it to be bad porn, so he re-read The Story of O and was much more satisfied.

Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain is a dog, so he doesn’t read; he watches TV.

And Trevor in A Sudden Light reads everything, voraciously.  He can’t read enough, and all of it is good.  Except James Frey.  He hates James Frey.

Do you have a favourite bookstore?

Too many in Seattle to single out just one.  Queen Anne Book Company, Eagle Harbor Books, Liberty Bay Books, Secret Garden Books, Third Place Books, Parkplace Books, Island Books…oh, yeah, and the granddaddy of them all, Elliott Bay Book Company!

E-reader or the real thing?

I don’t care.  A story is a story.  You need to quit being such a fetishist.  Get over the paper book vs. e-reader thing.  Enough already.  The future started a while back and we’re going to leave you behind if you don’t jump on soon.

Tell us a little bit about the book (written by anyone) that has a soft spot in your heart.

Oh, you know, I always loved Kim by Rudyard Kipling.  I like the journey of the young protagonist through a part of the world that no longer exists…

If you could add one book to the high school curriculum, which one would it be?

I have no idea.  Teachers are good.  Let’s support them and have confidence in their judgment.

Which contemporary book will become a classic in 50 years?

What, now I’m a fortune teller?  I have no idea, but I hope it’s one of mine!

Which book is criminally underrated?

Dude, you are SO melodramatic!  It’s not a crime to not like a book.  Everyone reads a book differently, through his or her own ideals, values, and experiences.  So what I love, you may hate, and vice versa.  I suggest you read the things you love and pass on the things you hate.  But then again, self-flagellation isn’t a crime either, I don’t think, so it’s up to you.  In any event, let’s not make underrating a book a crime.  The justice system has enough problems…


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