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Julia Glass: always a book in hand

Julia Glass

When Julia Glass, whose novel “Three Junes” won the National Book Award, moved from a small New York City apartment to a house in Marblehead, she started buying books with abandon, stuffing them into her third-floor office. Some nights she lies awake on the second floor, worrying about whether the ceiling overhead will collapse on her from the weight. Glass’s most recent novel is “And the Dark Sacred Night” (2014).

BOOKS: What are some of your early reading memories?

GLASS: I remember sitting on the floor of my father’s study while he worked on his PhD and pulling down these books of pictorial manuscripts of Aztec sacrifices. Those images of hearts being wrenched out of chests were not what some parents would consider appropriate for children.


BOOKS: Did you read adult books as a child?

GLASS: When I was in 6th grade I attached myself to Thomas Hardy’s “The Return of the Native.” I had this little leather-bound edition that my father had owned. Like a lot of bookish kids, I loved carrying around books that impressed grown-ups. In my teen years I read a lot of literature in translation. I loved Eugene Ionesco’s plays. By wanting to be this exotic reader I unintentionally broadened my horizons quite a bit. Still, there are so many literary classics that I have yet to read. My dark confession is that other than “A Tale of Two Cities,” I’ve really yet to get to Dickens. I guess George Eliot is the polestar for me. I feel as if the older I get the slower I read and the less time I have for reading. As a child I read at every opportunity. I remember my mother getting exasperated at me because I was reading a book while I was setting the table.

BOOKS: Do you read more fiction or nonfiction?


GLASS: I’d like to read more nonfiction, but I can never catch up with the novels I want to read. A few years ago I read “Soldier’s Heart” by Elizabeth Samet, which is about teaching literature at West Point. I picked that up because a number of my ancestors went there. Since then I keep returning to fiction about war. I read Andrew Krivak’s “The Sojourn.” Mercifully, it’s a short book, because no book about World War I can be anything but devastating. I’ve given that to a lot of people. A few years ago I read “To the End of the Land,” a stunning novel by the Israeli author David Grossman, which is about raising a family in a society that is so focused on military defense. I just read a remarkable novel called “Girl at War” by Sara Novic. It’s told from the point of view of the child at the start of the civil war in the Balkans.

BOOKS: What are you reading now?

GLASS: I’m doing research for a character that is an actor. I’m reading Constantin Stanislavski’s “An Actor Prepares” and other textbooks of mine from an acting workshop I took at Yale. These are seriously strange books. Our professor would have us lie in the dark for an hour and concentrate on traumatic childhood experiences.

BOOKS: What are you reading for yourself?

GLASS: The novel “Stoner” by John Williams, which was published in 1965. I bought it at McNally Jackson [in New York]. That was the third or fourth store where I’d seen “Stoner” displayed as a forgotten classic. I find that when I want to read something off the beaten path I often turn to my favorite booksellers. The manager of the Concord Bookshop recommended the novel “The Heart Broke In” by James Meek, which I have in my stack and am looking forward to. I’m your typical soapboxer on supporting independent bookstores. My friends joke that before I come over they check the recycling bin to make sure there aren’t any Amazon boxes showing. If there are, they are going to get the speech — again.


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