Katha Pollitt, essayist, poet, and long-time columnist for the Nation, spends her summers in Clinton, Conn., where you can find her scouting the books in the local Goodwill. Pollitt speaks about her new book, "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights" on Thursday, Oct. 16 at The Brattle Theatre. Tickets are $5 for the event sponsored by the Harvard Book Store and the Jewish Women's Archive.
BOOKS: What was your last best read?
POLLITT: For the last couple of years I've been reading tons about abortion for my own book. I haven't been reading as much fiction or unrelated nonfiction as I usually do. If you plunge yourself into nitty-gritty nonfiction that's work related, even if the material is fascinating, you feel like you're dying a little inside. Fortunately there was "Game of Thrones" on TV.
BOOKS: What have you been reading since you finished your book?
POLLITT: I'm just finishing "My Promised Land" about Israel by Ari Shavit, and I'm just starting a book about real ancient female warriors, "The Amazons" by Adrienne Mayor and "Bad Feminist," a collection of essays by Roxane Gay.
BOOKS: Do you read fiction too?
POLLITT: Yes. I'm reading "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'' by Marina Lewycka , which I love, but this is my problem with novels. I want to drown in them, but I don't always have that kind of obsessive time. I picked up a novel by Emma Donoghue, "The Sealed Letter," which is a page-turner. When I start a book like that I won't be able to do anything until I finish it. But I do have to write my column.
BOOKS: What are some of the recent page-turners you've read?
POLLITT: I read "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian writer, with total fascination. It's about the Biafran War. I thought this book is what fiction should do, bring a world to you as well as the interior lives of the people in that world. That's also the old Victorian idea of what fiction should do. I also read Robert Hellenga's "The Fall of a Sparrow," which has everything that is wonderful and everything that is terrible about Italy in it. I like books that have both light and dark in them.
BOOKS: Do you read mysteries?
POLLITT: I used to, but they've come to seem very mechanical. I think that happened after I'd read every novel by Ruth Rendell. She's a wonderful stylist especially under her pen name, Barbara Vine. I felt a bit that way after Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," which I devoured but didn't find the plot believable.
BOOKS: Which poets do you read?
POLLITT: I need to read younger people because I read the poets of my youth like Sharon Olds, Charles Simic, and Eavan Boland. Some newer people I'm getting into are Jericho Brown, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Brenda Shaughnessy.
BOOKS: Do you pick books or avoid books based on their depictions of women?
POLLITT: I think there are kinds of books by men I'm not interested in, macho books involving hunting and stuff like that. I recently reread "The Counterlife" by Philip Roth. I've read most of his books. A lot of people would say he's a tremendously sexist writer, but I thought that book was hysterically funny. I read "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen in my book club. He really doesn't get women. All the women in that book are subsumed by the men in their lives. That was also true of "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides.
BOOKS: Did you read any books about abortion that you would recommend?
POLLITT: "Sacrificed for Honor" by David I. Kertzer, which is the history of foundling hospitals. People were throwing their children away in the street and having abortions, which is why the Catholic Church started foundling hospitals in the early Middle Ages. These places were death houses for children. They couldn't get enough wet nurses to breast feed them so babies would basically starve. I like a book where you learn something on every page.