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 All the Way to the Tigers (out this week in paperback), Mary Morris.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Mary Morris: Oh definitely Jane Eyre. There were lots of books that I read and that absorbed me before Jane Eyre (like Little Women and all of Nancy Drew), but Jane Eyre was my first love. I was perhaps eleven or twelve years old and found myself living inside that book. I savored every page. It obsessed me night and day. Then afternoon day I’m walking home from school with a friend, and I tell her I’m reading Jane Eyre and she says to me, “Oh have you gotten to the part about his crazy wife in the attic?” And I put my hands over my ears and screamed. Ever since then I won’t let anyone talk to me about a book or film they’ve enjoyed if I plan to read or see it.
BM: Favorite re-read?
MM: Anna Karenina. I read it as a girl and then reread it in 1986 as I was taking the TransSiberian railroad from Beijing to Berlin. It was pretty amazing to reread that book while traveling across the Russian tundra.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
BM: A book that blew your mind?
MM: Ah there are so many…
BM: Last book you read?
MM: Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. Loved it.
BM: A book that made you cry?
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
MM: Christina Baker Kline’s The Exiles.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
MM: I rarely laugh out loud when I’m reading but The Enchanted April definitely fit the bill.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
MM: I think I read everything.
BM: Classic book you hate?
MM: It’s not a book per se but I’ve never been able to get into Dickens. I realize this is a moral shortcoming on my part.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
MM: Beloved. I’ve actually never read it though I have loved many of Morrison’s other books, especially Song of Solomon. I’ve tried to read Beloved a few times but it’s on my pile to try again…Sometimes I’m slow to the party.
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
MM: There are a lot of great sex scenes that stay with me probably for the wrong reasons and usually involved some form of male dominance such as the sex in Norman Mailer’s “In the Time of her Time,” but Scott Spencer’s Endless Love has a sex scene that has always stayed with me. It is so erotic and visceral and gentle at the same time.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
MM: Well, I’m sure there are people who have heard of it, but just no one I’ve ever run into. I love But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer. It’s short stories based on the lives of jazz musicians and I have read them over and over again. There’s one about Bud Powell that breaks my heart every time.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
MM: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
MM: Well, there’s a fairly large, eclectic pile, not to mention what’s cued up in my Kindle and my NYPL app. In terms of physical books some are for research, some for pleasure, and some because I must. Writers & Lovers by Lily King, Several books about Italy under fascism, Sebastian Barry’s The Sacred Scriptures, and a novel by Cesare Pavese, called The Devil in the Hills, that is in Italian and a man on a plane gave it to me when we landed in Rome because I told him how much I loved Pavese. I am determined to read it through.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
MM: Charlotte’s Web. Loved it when I was a girl and I love it now.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
MM: Well, if I may mention one of my own, The Jazz Palace would be a great mini-series. It’s the story of a friendship between a Jewish piano player and a black trumpeter in the 1920s in Chicago. I also think that Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi would make a great series.
Mary Morris is the author of numerous works of fiction, including the novels Gateway to the Moon, The Jazz Palace, A Mother’s Love, and House Arrest, and of nonfiction, including the travel classic Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone. Morris is a recipient of the Rome Prize in literature and the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Mary Morris’ All the Way to the Tigers is out this week in paperback from Anchor Books