Anne Gisleson: Author Interview

Anne’s essay about The Saturn Bar from OXFORD AMERICAN was chosen for Dave Eggers BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING (Houghton Mifflin) anthology, which went on sale October 8th.

anne gisleson

1.  What book woke you up to the pleasures of reading?
Probably Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel.  As a kid I liked that these quirky little stories with the amphibians in slightly groovy outfits didn’t seem to always have a clear point, except that Frog and Toad were really good friends and that friendships can be complicated.

2. What under appreciated writer (or book) do you most enjoy
    introducing to the uninitiated?
New Orleans writer Patty Friedmann.  Walker Percy wrote in his collection of essays Signposts in a Strange Land that “I make no claim to prophetic powers, yet I make bold to predict that the next Southern literary revival will be led by a Jewish mother, which is to say, a shrewd self-possessed woman with a sharp eye and a cunning retentive mind who sees the small triumphs and tragedies around her and has her own secret method of rendering it, with an art all her own and yet not unrelated to Welty, O’Connor and Porter.”  This is Patty Friedmann, exactly.

3. Name your favorite short story not written by Chekov
“No Place for You, My Love” by Eudora Welty

 4.  How did your growing up shape your writing?
I grew up in New Orleans with five sisters and two brothers (and devout Catholic parents).  We were all really different and the house was always filled with activity, with a lot burgeoning personalities working out their stuff.   But it was also very hard to focus on one thing and to find any peace and quiet.  So as an adult I appreciate solitude but have bad work habits.  Our family in New Orleans goes back eight generations and the weight and amount of material can be almost paralyzing.

5.  Tell us what writing you are working on.
I’m working on a couple of collaborative projects.  One is How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide From a Work in Progress , which spotlights the resilience and creativity of the citizens of New Orleans who have filled the civic voids left in the wake of the levee failures: who hand-painted street signs, started or re-opened businesses against all odds, who tend our parks, re-forest our diminished urban canopy, clean our streets, lobby for stronger levees, and organize campaigns to counter crime and violence, artists and cultural institutions whose work helps people stay hopeful and engaged during the long and difficult reconstruction.  The other the text for a monograph of photographs of the endangered Louisiana wetlands by the wonderful artist Michel Varisco and is as yet untitled.

6.  Are you best as a morning writer, an evening writer, or an intoxicated writer?
Definitely the morning, when I haven’t had enough time to beat myself up yet.


1.  What’s the best present you ever received?
 A Eurail pass from my dad when I was 19.

2.  Name your favorite French word or phrase


 3.  What’s a question whose answer today is COMPLETELY different than it
     would have been ten years ago?

“So, do you really love him?”


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