Name: Scott Blackwood
Occupation: Blackwood teaches fiction writing in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University
Book: See How Small
What’s it about: One late autumn evening in a Texas town, two strangers walk into an ice cream shop shortly before closing time. They bind up the three teenage girls who are working the counter, set fire to the shop, and disappear. ‘See How Small’ tells the stories of the survivors – family, witnesses, and suspects – who must endure in the wake of atrocity. Justice remains elusive in their world, human connection tenuous.
Hovering above the aftermath of their deaths are the three girls. They watch over the town and make occasional visitations, trying to connect with and prod to life those they left behind. “See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart,” they say. A master of compression and lyrical precision, Scott Blackwood has surpassed himself with this haunting, beautiful, and enormously powerful new novel.
Why we’re excited: See How Small is one of the most beautifully written books that 4th Estate has published. At times, the prose is so transfixing that its easy to forget the dark and unsettling events that the novel is based on.
What he’s reading:
‘-Laird Hunt’s ‘Neverhome’: a brilliant novel in which a woman, Ash, takes on a man’s identity to fight in the American Civil War. Based on real cases Hunt found in his research.
-Alice Murno’s ‘Lives of Girls and Women’. The short story master’s very first book of fiction that works like–gasp!—a novel.
-Greil Marcus’s ”The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs’: Marcus is one of the top writers on perceived high and low culture because he explores their abandoned love children.
-Peter Orner’s ‘Love and Shame and Love’: Beautiful, luminous yearning. Epigraphic takes on love and loss in Chicago.
-Miles Harvey’s ‘The Island of Lost Map’s: the inexplicable life of an antiquarian map thief. A mystery about the self and its need to possess.’
What he’s listening to: ‘Dwight Yokum’s acoustic album, Thelonius Monk Alone in Paris, Cat Power’s Covers Album’
What he’s watching: ‘Les Revenants, Rectify, Watching with my ears: SERIAL podcasts’
His favourite word: Luminous
His favourite song: ‘“Gimme Shelter” by the Stones or “I’ll be Seeing You,” by Billie Holiday. “Take it With Me When I Go,” by Tom Waits, a close third. ‘
Living person he most admires: ‘Austin’s own Willie Nelson. 83. All that’s left is song. And he’s not giving it up.’
The trait he most deplores in himself: ‘Thoughtlessness’
The trait he most deplores in others: ‘Myopia’
The book he wishes he’d written: ‘Marquez’s ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’: The gold fish, the ice in the jungle, the red ants.’
The book he thinks that everyone should read: ‘River of Earth’ by James Still: Appalachian life, poverty, wonder, climbing down the “darksome hole” of a coal mine. Are we still there?
The book he’d like republished: ‘The Origins of Marvel Comics’: beginnings are best, except for endings. ‘House of Breath’ by William Goyen (a near-forgotten Texan writer beloved by the French).
His writing ritual: ‘Coffee. Music. Running. Associational thinking.’
The best advice he’s ever received: ‘“Only do write because you have to.” Too many cracked ribs and bruises over the course of a writing life to do it for other reasons. ‘
The worst advice: “Novels can’t do what you say they should.”
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