This month in City of Readers we're featuring David Naimon, host of the literary radio show and podcast Between the Covers. David is also a writer and an acupuncturist.
Where are you from originally?
Last book you loved:
by Miriam Toews
Describe your first memorable reading experience.
My first memorable reading experience is reading The Monster at the End of This Book
as a child. It was a riveting experience to have the narrator of the book, in this case Grover, address me directly, asking me, begging me not to turn the page (because if I did I’d be one page closer to the monster at the end of the book). And yet, despite Grover’s best efforts to prevent me, I compulsively turned the page again and again. The power of narrative, of story, of suspense was so evident in that simple device, as was the collaborative dance between writer and reader. Discovering, however, that Grover — that warm, funny, furry, goofy creature — was a monster, was the monster, was a bit traumatizing for little me.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
I think of two quotes, the first by Ursula K. Le Guin
: “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel...is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” The second is by James Baldwin
: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” If a book helps us understand ourselves better and/or connects us in solidarity with others, then a book is alive.
Name an author you think everyone should read, and a good book with which to start.
The Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza is one of the most important writers in Mexico today and yet we in the Anglophone world are just now getting the chance to read multiple works by her in English. She has written extensively in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and hopefully someday soon we will get to experience all of this in English. For now we must content ourselves with three of her wonderful novels, of which I would start with The Iliac Crest
from Feminist Press. An uncanny mysterious fever-dream of a book, The Iliac Crest
is also an engagement with the question of borders and territory, of gender and mental illness, of the power of language to connect and exclude, and of the silencing and reclamation of the voices and lineages of women writers.
What do you do when you’re not reading?
If a book helps us understand ourselves better and/or connects us in solidarity with others, then a book is alive.
A lot of my time when not reading is spent preparing for my podcast/radio interviews with authors. I try to read several of their books, not just the most recent. But I will also listen to other podcast interviews with them and do research about their influences and interests. This could be anything from listening to philosophy podcasts about Wittgenstein
in anticipation of talking to Maggie Nelson
to learning about the Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel, the oldest known example of figurative art (40,000 years old), carved out of mammoth ivory by a flint stone knife, for an upcoming conversation with the writer Max Porter
I am also a writer, an ardent fan of the Portland Trailblazers, love to go to Sweedeedee for brunch with the Sunday edition of The New York Times
, to garden with my cat, and to watch films (the Japanese film Shoplifters
and the Swedish film Border
are two recent highlights for me).
What do you love about Portland?
I love how supportive and interwoven the Portland literary scene is, how many opportunities there are to hear writers read or to study writing yourself. For example, Lidia Yuknavitch
’s Corporeal Writing Center; Dao Strom
and Neil Aitken
’s De-Canon: A Visibility Project; David Biespiel
's Attic Institute; the Independent Publishing Resource Center; the reading series at Reed, PSU, Lewis & Clark; the White Noise Project reading series; Street Books; the Tin House summer and winter writers’ workshops; Literary Arts; and Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project and Think & Drink series are just a few of the opportunities available in this city. All of these complement the draw that is Powell’s for writers across the country. Not to mention the wonderful atmospheric smaller spaces for literary gatherings from Mother Foucault’s to Nationale to the book-lined walls of The Stacks Coffehouse.
What should people know about your podcast Between the Covers?
Even as the audience for the show is a national one, the show is very connected to Portland. The interviews are all in-person, taped in the studios, and broadcast on the airwaves of KBOO Community Radio, and Portland’s own publishing imprint, Tin House, has recently adopted the podcast. The archive of conversations — including Celeste Ng
, Marlon James
, Valeria Luiselli
, Ursula K. Le Guin, Layli Long Soldier
, and George Saunders
— is now beautifully redesigned at tinhouse.com/podcasts. All of these episodes are in-depth one-on-one conversations with writers in all three genres: fiction (including science fiction and fantasy), nonfiction, and poetry.