Today we present our first feature in a series of interviews called Page Turners: Jefferson County, which asks a local resident to reflect on the role books and reading have played in his or her life.
Ginny Fite is an award-winning journalist and the author of several collections of poetry as well as most recently, the murder mystery, Cromwell’s Folly. She currently resides in Harpers Ferry, WV.
What book(s) are currently on your nightstand?
I’m reading Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread in print and A.X. Ahmad’s The Caretaker on my phone. My back up pile (because I panic if I don’t have at least four months of books on hand) includes Richard Ford’s Independence Day, Cheryl Strayed’s tiny beautiful things, Robert Olen Butler’s The Star of Istanbul, and also novels from Rushdie, Lauren Groff, Patrick Modiano and others.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I love novels and I’m not picky about genre. In fact, I like a book that dares to cross over, to be both good literature and also a fantasy, mystery, ghost story, historical fiction. I’m as happy to read Stephen King as I am Michael Cunningham.
Where and when do you like to read best?
If I’m not on a writing tear, I read for several hours in the afternoon most days when the natural light is good in my family room, sitting in my comfortable reading chair. But I’m happy to read anywhere–that’s why I have books loaded on my phone.
What book most impacted your career as a writer?
The first book that stirred my blood and made me realize that a story could change a reader’s life was Alexander Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo, which I read when I was fifteen. I felt liberated, elevated, shown a world I’d never dreamed existed in a way that made me feel I was standing in it. I read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina shortly after that. My eyes were opened! Other books I’d loved before (the Bronte sisters, Austen’s opus) hadn’t made me see what words could do. Or perhaps I wasn’t ready to see.
Several books have hit me like errant comets over the years and my ideas about writing changed after I read each of them: Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon, Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, books that have a little bit of magic in them, have all taught me that words are an incantation that conjures up new worlds.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
I really don’t have just one. I’m a kind of “love who you’re with” reader and I move on from character to character. If I have to pick though, it would be Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, with whom I absolutely identify (but then, doesn’t every young girl).
What’s the last book you put down without finishing?
I couldn’t make it through Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, perhaps because I’d already read The Goldfinch where she perfected the themes she was developing. I hate abandoning books but if I really don’t like the book and avoid reading it, all reading stops.
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? What would you ask them?
What a thrill it would be to have Marquez, Morrison, and Butler to dinner. I don’t think I’d ask them anything. I would just sit back and watch them have at it. It’s possible the table would levitate.
What childhood memories about reading stick most in your mind?
I used to read under the blankets with a flashlight after curfew– my first illicit pleasure.
Of the books & poems you’ve written, which is your favorite or most personally meaningful?
I invest myself in every piece of writing I do. Each one wrings me out, whether it’s funny, as I Should Be Dead by Now is, deeply revealing as the poems in Throwing Caution are, or a little terrifying, as Cromwell’s Folly can be. “Natural Causes,” the final story in the collection What Goes Around, has a protagonist, Sophie, who most clearly articulates what I think about love, fate, and death– the topics that absorb me.
Which five books would you take with you on a desert island?
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Czeslaw Milosz’ Bells in Winter, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Is there a book you’ve read & liked that you’re embarrassed to admit? Guilty pleasure?
I liked Stephen King’s The Stand, which I read before the literary world acknowledged him as one of their own. But I get pleasure from admitting I like his books.
What do you plan to read next?
Robert Olen Butler’s The Star of Istanbul.
Categories: Page Turners