Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to Quotients author and National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, Tracy O’Neill.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Tracy O’Neill: As a kid I adored Cully Cully and the Bear by Mary Q. Steele. The plot is a guy and a bear run in a circle, experiencing terror and exhaustion. It’s children’s Beckett.
BM: Favorite re-read?
TON: I’m on my second copy of Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
TON: The counterintuitive answer is Giovanni’s Room. James Baldwin said Giovanni’s Room is about “what happens if you are so afraid that you finally cannot love anybody,” and Quotients centers around how various terrors pervert connection.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
TON: Heavy. Kiese Laymon is a genius of rhythm, pacing, and narrative structure.
BM: Last book you read?
TON: A re-read: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, which doesn’t get enough credit for its experimentalism.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
TON: All Back Full by Robert Lopez
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
TON: I’ve had Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald on my bookshelf since 2012, and it’s turning into vinegar.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
TON: I’m reading The Undying by Anne Boyer and Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian. The Heartsnatcher foreword by Raymond Queneau is a poem that calls Vian things like “a rolling farawayfarer / an olympiadventurer / among the great mines / of the think-al-hikers / a sagent / of that peak of Parisian secret societies.” Not a bad endorsement.
Tracy O’Neill is the author of The Hopeful, one of Electric Literature’s Best Novels of 2015, and Quotients, forthcoming from Soho Press. In 2015, she was named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. Her writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, BOMB, Bookforum, Grantland, Vice, The Guardian, VQR, and The San Francisco Chronicle. She attended the Ph.D. program in communications at Columbia University.
Tracy O’Neill’s Quotients is out this week from Soho Press