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10 questions for Bradford Morrow

Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club. The Bryant Park Reading Room offers free copies of book club selection while supply lasts, compliments of Oxford University Press, and guest speakers lead the group in discussion. On Tuesday 26 June, Bradford Morrow leads a discussion on My Antonia by Willa Cather.

Bradford Morrow. Photo by Michael Eastman.
Where do you do your best writing?

At the kitchen table of my farmhouse in upstate New York.

Did you have an “a-ha!” moment that made you want to be a writer?

I have those “a-ha!” moments all the time, especially when the writing is going well, but I don’t remember having a very first epiphany moment.

Which author do you wish had been your seventh grade English teacher?

William H. Gass.

What is your secret talent?

I’m a pretty decent birder.

What is your favorite book?

I can never properly answer this question, because the minute I settle on one book, like say Nabokov’s Lolita, I think of another I like every bit as much, such as Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or Angela Carter’s Burning Your Boats. I’m afraid I have hundreds of favorite books!

Who reads your first draft?

Cara Schlesinger has been reading my first drafts for years and I’m very grateful. Incisive, insightful, and utterly unafraid.

Do you read your books after they’ve been published?

No.

Do you prefer writing on a computer or longhand?

I used to write longhand first drafts but my handwriting has steadily deteriorated over the years and so I prefer the computer now.

What book are you currently reading? (Old school or e-Reader?)

Well, in fact, Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

What word or punctuation mark are you most guilty of overusing?

I have to watch it with dashes —- they have a way of appearing in the middle of sentences —- because they too often can interrupt the flow of thought.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

In trouble.

Bradford Morrow is author of the novels Come Sunday, The Almanac Branch, Trinity Fields, Giovanni’s Gift, Ariel’s Crossing (all available as e-books from Open Road Media) and The Diviner’s Tale, which was published in 2011 simultaneously by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the United States and Grove Atlantic/Corvus in England. His anthology on the subject of death, The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death, co-edited with David Shields, came out with W. W. Norton in 2011. And his first collection of short stories, The Uninnocent, was published by Pegasus Books, also in 2011. A fantasy-apocalyptic novella, Fall of the Birds, was published as a Kindle Single by Open Road Integrated Media that same year.

Recipient of numerous awards, among them the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an O. Henry Prize (for his story, “Lush”), a Pushcart Prize (for his story “Amazing Grace”), and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he also founded and edits Bard College’s acclaimed literary journal, Conjunctions, for which he received the 2007 PEN/Nora Magid Award. Along with Conjunctions, which has now produced some 58 issues, publishing the work of over a thousand fiction writers, poets, essayists, and dramatists, Morrow edits the online Web Conjunctions, publishing new work each week.

He has edited a number of books, among them The New Gothic (with Patrick McGrath); The Selected Poems of Kenneth Rexroth; World Outside the Window: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth; Classics Revisited; More Classics Revisited; and The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (with Sam Hamill). Morrow has also published several volumes of poetry, including Posthumes and A Bestiary (which was illustrated by 18 contemporary artists such as Richard Tuttle, Eric Fischl, Kiki Smith, and Joel Shapiro), as well as a children’s book, Didn’t Didn’t Do It, in collaboration with the legendary cartoonist Gahan Wilson. He is currently recording The Bestiary with collaborator Alex Skolnick.

His stories and essays have been widely anthologized—including, most recently, in Best American Noir of the Century, edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, which featured his story “The Hoarder”—and his work has been translated into a dozen languages. He is completing work on a seventh novel, The Prague Sonatas, which takes place both in Prague, Czech Republic and Prague, Nebraska. Morrow is professor of literature and Bard Center Fellow at Bard College. He divides his time between New York City and an old farmhouse in upstate New York.

Previously in the 10 questions series: Lynn Neary and Wuthering Heights.

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