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Meet the Author: 6 Questions with Elisa Gabbert

May 7, 2021

Get to know the author Elisa Gabbert, who will lead us in reading W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants in the June edition of #APStogether, our series of virtual book clubs, as she discusses the books and writers that excite her.

Elisa Gabbert is the author of five collections of poetry, essays, and criticism, most recently The Unreality of Memory & Other Essays and The Word Pretty. She writes a regular poetry column for the New York Times, and her work has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, A Public Space, the Nation, and many other venues. Her next book of poems, Normal Distance, will be out from Soft Skull next year.

For which book do you wish you could write the introduction?

I would love to write an intro for The Bell Jar. I reread it a few years ago, kind of expecting it to be bad, and couldn’t believe how delightful it is. A poet’s novel can be so thrilling, like an amateur doing a high-wire act.

What book coming out in the next year are you most excited about?

I don’t really play the book anticipation game, since there are plenty of books already out that I haven’t gotten around to yet. A new book I am very excited to read is Shape by Jordan Ellenberg. His writing about math is generally mind-blowing. Detransition, Baby is also close to the top of my stack, but I see that’s six months old already!

With which three people would you like to start a book club?

You didn’t say living or dead, does that mean I can choose dead people? Susan Sontag, James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal.

Who are some writers whose words you strive to never miss, whether they be in a book, article, or social media post form?

I don’t get fussy about completism—in fact I think I actively want to miss things—but I try to read every new book by Graham Foust, Kate Colby, and J. Robert Lennon as they come out.

What is your favorite punctuation mark?

A difficult question because I love punctuation so much. I think parentheticals are one of my signatures, but I also love an exclamation point, especially in poetry.

What do you hope people take away from reading W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants?

It’s such a personal book, in the way we see these intimate details of so many lives, though always at some level of remove, I like to imagine that every reader will have their own constellation of images or phrases they remember it by, and these images will be a confusion of the photos in the book and what we’ve conjured in our own minds.

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