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 The Cactus League, Emily Nemens.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Emily Nemens: Sort of a cheat, but the Charlie Parker Omnibook. I was a very studious, pretty okay saxophonist growing up, and I spent years practicing those transcribed solos. I never got them up to tempo (240 beats/minute was de rigueur for CP), but every year I got a bit closer. Several solos are still burned into my brain, I suspect.
BM: Favorite re-read?
EN: I haven’t had time to reread much in years… I can’t quite describe my submission queue. But the Paris Review Writers at Work series is a good excuse to revisit favorites. I loved rereading the Outline trilogy for Rachel Cusk’s Art of Fiction interview.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
EN: The Art of Fielding was the last big literary sports book when I started The Cactus League, so that’s one. But I had a really eclectic stack of books by my side, so Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and John McPhee’s The Control of Nature were also pingpong partners.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
EN: Did you know Anne Carson and Rosanna Bruno are making a comic book of Euripides’s The Trojan Women? New Directions is publishing it this summer and five bucks says it will blow your mind, too.
BM: Last book you read?
EN: The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. There is so much love and so much brutality in that novel. I was absolutely knocked over by it.
BM: A book that made you cry?
EN: I was a wreck at the end of The Bone Fire, by György Dragomán, translated by Ottilie Mulzet.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
EN: Every book that came out in the past year could use a rub on the back. But if I had to pick one… I keep thinking about the American Water Museum in Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem, so maybe that.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
EN: Sam Lipsyte, all of it, though The Ask holds a special place in my heart as someone who sometimes has to fundraise.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
EN: For a certain subset of editorially minded friends, Moira Kalman’s illustrated Strunk and White Elements of Style is a perfect gift. This holiday, I found myself gifting Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
EN: My sophomore year of college I lived with a woman who went on to become a Tolstoy scholar—and is still a dear friend. I offered to read War and Peace before we moved in together. I’m embarrassed to tell her I’ve still not read Anna Karenina.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
EN: Does anyone remember Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love? I had my head in the Omnibook when it came out (see above), but I picked it up years later and fell in love.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
EN: When will we get to see Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance on the screen? If they can make a movie of Tom Hanks on an island with a coconut, surely they can make a flick of Hakan Soderstrom’s travels and travails. Imagine the cinematography!
Emily Nemens is the editor of The Paris Review. She was previously the co-editor of The Southern Review. Her work has been published in Esquire, n+1, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart and elsewhere, and she is the author of The Cactus League.
Emily Nemens’ The Cactus League is out tomorrow in paperback from Picador USA