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Summer reading: Electric Literature's Andy Hunter on Narnia and more

June 25, 2010 | 10:31 am

Andyhunter Andy Hunter is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature, a new literary journal available simultaneously electronically and in print. Electric Literature -- which in its first three issues has published short fiction by prizewinning authors Michael Cunningham, Jim Shepard, Colson Whitehead and more -- was one of the first publications of its kind to launch an iPad app. It has also embraced the short form: Electric Literature's Twitter publication of a short story by Rick Moody, and the attendant publicity, earned it more than 150,000 Twitter followers. And it has invited artists to animate single sentences from its publication; the videos can be found on YouTube. When another electronic venue emerges, Electric Literature is sure to be found there too.

This summer, we suggest the L.A. Times list of 60 books for 92 days, all brand-new and upcoming titles; we asked Andy Hunter to share some of his most memorable summer reads.  

Jacket Copy: Do you remember reading a specific book or books during summer? What's the title/author?

Andy Hunter: I remember being obsessed by "The Chronicles of Narnia" when I was 9 years old. I tore through all seven books in two weeks while vacationing with my family in a cabin by the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H. I refused to look up from the page, even when dragged out on picnics, boat rides, and other attempts at family bonding. I vividly remember being chastised for reading while crossing a busy street. Also that summer, I read "Bridge to Terabithia," which I highly recommend as a companion volume.

Eight years later, again in a cabin in the woods by a lake, but this time in Maine, I read "Steppenwolf" by Herman Hesse. I remember my shock at discovering that in literature -- grownup books, for adults -- fantastic things could happen. Respected German authors could write, with seriousness, about magical incidents. I was thrilled.

When I was 23, I carried "The Brothers Karamozov" with me while commuting to my job as a file clerk in a legal office. That book agitated me. The experience of getting off the subway and repressing the emotions it had stirred up as I greeted my supervisor and began my monotonous, dreadful work was both surreal and horrifying. Horrifying because I was just out of college and suspected that the legal office was the "real life" that we were all damned to live.

A decade later, I read Lynne Tillman’s "American Genius" while vacationing in a converted barn in Cape Cod. It’s a dense, entirely convincing, looping exploration of obsessive consciousness. Not your typical beach book, but I did read it on the beach, and the book was powerful enough that my experience of reading it there is indelible, which is true of all of these summer reads.

JC: Have you reread any of the books? If so, have they changed at all for you? If not, why not?

I haven’t. I’m always afraid to reread books which meant a lot to me at different times of my life; I’m afraid I wouldn’t care for "Steppenwolf" anymore. Narnia has been tainted by the movies, and the Christian themes, which were lost on me at 9, might bother me now. I am going to reread "The Brothers Karamozov" this summer, though, thanks to this exercise. I have a feeling it will hold up.

JC: Have you picked out anything else to read this summer?

I’m excited to read John Hawkes’ "The Passion Artist," which Dalkey just re-released. Rick Moody wrote the new introduction, and I’ll definitely read his new book of science fiction, "The Four Fingers of Death." Publishers Weekly calls it a “distressingly impertinent exercise in bafflement,” which sounds good to me. "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake," by Aimee Bender, another author whom we’ve featured in Electric Literature, is by my bedside. And I will definitely be reading "Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart when it comes out in July.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo courtesy Andy Hunter

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