Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of More Miracle Than Bird (out now in paperback), Alice Miller.
Book Marks: A book that blew your mind?
Alice Miller: Toni Morrison’s Paradise. Obsessions I share—about history, utopian communities, and the stories we tell about ourselves—explored in outstanding prose.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
AM: Growing up in a family of lesbians, I felt I was a bit weird for wanting to wear skirts and mascara, and I was very drawn to Twelfth Night with its cross-dressing love affairs.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
AM: Bhanu Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart is a fascinating, crushing collection about the dynamic of visitor and host. It’s both a gift and, in the German sense of the word, a poison.
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
AM: Eimear MacBride’s The Lesser Bohemians.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
AM: Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. There are so many aspects of this novel I love. “Does a thistle have no right to life, or a Mouse that eats the grain in a warehouse? What about Bees and Drones, weeds and roses? …. Everyone knows the profit to be reaped from the useful, but nobody knows the benefit to be gained from the useless…”
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
AM: My friend Chelsea Wald’s funny and clever book about toilets, Pipe Dreams; Antonioni’s screenwriter, Tonino Guerra’s novella Equilibrium from the new MOIST books; Hinemoana Baker’s gorgeous poetry collection, Funkhaus; and Mark Leidner’s brilliant Returning the Sword to the Stone.
BM: Favorite re-read?
AM: Recently I developed an addiction to Proust, partly because of beauty, and partly because of all books, his are the most reliable to get me to sleep. Eventually, halfway through a luxurious, voluminous sentence, I drift off.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
AM: Duck, Death, and the Tulip. I’ve given this to a lot of children. I grew up with a strange and terrifying idea of death. I wonder if this would help think about things differently? In any case, the drawings are magnificent.
BM: A book that made you cry?
AM: Last night rereading War and Peace and firmly promising myself I would not cry at the death of Petya Rostov, I went ahead and cried at the death of Petya Rostov.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
AM: I was going to say Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings, but I’m glad to see it’s already happening! How about a strange, bold adaptation of Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy? Or Elizabeth Knox’s The Absolute Book?
Alice Miller is the author of three poetry collections, including What Fire. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the International Institute of Modern Letters, she is on the faculty of the MFA program at Cedar Crest College. More Miracle than Bird is her first novel.
Alice Miller’s More Miracle Than Bird is out now in paperback from Tin House Books