Author Q&A: Alan Michael Parker (Christmas in July)

Alan Michael Parker author photoAlan Michael Parker is the author of eight poetry collections (the award givers especially liked The Ladder and Long Division) and four novels, including most recently Christmas in July.

AMP is the Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College. He also teaches fiction and poetry in the University of Tampa low-res MFA program.

His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times Book Review, and The Best American Poetry.

Of Christmas in July (Dzanc Books, January 2018), Booklist wrote: “Parker’s background in poetry is on full display in this novel in stories that follows Christmas Danzig, a 13-year-old girl with terminal cancer…Each tight and poignant story within is told from the perspective of one of the many misfit toys that Christmas meets along the way. All of these lovable goons and more make for a warm, fresh telling of a tragically familiar plight.”

Visit Alan Michael Parker at (you guessed it) alanmichaelparker.com.

In what way do you think literature has the ability to change the way people live their lives?

I want to believe that reading tunes the mind, that empathy results from the connections forged between a reader and a character, that form extends the range of human consciousness, that the imagination is an act of love, and that writing makes of the writer a best self.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

Olive Kitteredge, by Elizabeth Strout, which I gave to my son.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t listen to me.”

Which author do you re-read most frequently?

A mash-up: Italo Saunders, the great Italian-American author of If on a winter’s night, Pastoralia….

What is the best sentence you’ve ever read?

Joyce, natch, from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience, and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

But I like another sentence that I keep imagining, when our president declares, “I quit.”

Describe your writing routine.

I type a lot. I print out. I scrawl. I mutter. Rinse and repeat, though nothing ever gets clean.

How do you decide when to be done with a written work?

I mostly just quit working on a piece, because quitting is easier than deciding.

Name a writer who is a deep influence on you who you suspect hardly anyone you know has read.

Thomas McGuane.

Do you ever listen to music when you write? If so, what’s on your playlist?

Well, here’s an answer to all that music: Book Notes – Alan Michael Parker “Christmas in July”

How do you stay accountable to your own positionality when working with political content? 

Aspiring to empathy empowers me, and keeps me accountable.

Best bookstore you’ve ever been to?

I loved Gotham on 47th Street in New York. R.I.P.

If you were standing in line at a bookstore and noticed the person in front of you was holding your latest book, what would you say to them?

Hey, I wrote that. No, really.

Christmas in July

What literary landmark would you most like to visit?

Mars, thanks to Heinlein.

Do you own an e-reader?

Yes.

Is Facebook good for you?

Yes. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think of Facebook as the great, unedited Dickens novel of our time. How entertaining is that. But it’s also dangerous, of course, in that our worst selves are so easily made manifest by any number of scary people. Plus, envy.

What about Amazon?

It’s bad for indie presses, and good for reading.

What job have you held that was most helpful for your writing?

Teaching, for sure. Who knows what I think until I say it.

What is one of your vices?

You know.

What is one of your prejudices?

That there are evil people in the world. It’s a real prejudice—and one I’ve come to as a result of lots of reading, and worse, exposure to evil people.

Favorite books you’ve read in the past year?

Lincoln in the Bardo, Days of Shame & Failure, More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor.

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