Sunday, November 2, 2008

James Reese

James Reese was born on eastern Long Island. He attended the University of Notre Dame and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he received an MA in Theatre. As an undergraduate, he had a play staged off-Broadway at the Actors Repertory Theatre. While living in New York, New Orleans, and Key West, Reese held various jobs in the nonprofit sector, working on behalf of the arts and the environment. He has also lived and traveled extensively in France. Presently, James Reese splits his time between Paris, France, and St. Petersburg, Florida, where he is pursuing a graduate degree in Linguistics and working on a fifth novel.

His new book is The Dracula Dossier.

From a Q & A at his website:

Who are some of your favorite writers?

My interest in the gothic began with Anne Rice, who remains one of my favorite writers. Reading backwards in the genre from Anne, I discovered many of the authors mentioned above: the Brontes, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew "Monk" Lewis. Lewis's novel, The Monk, is one of my all-time favorites, and anyone with an abiding interest in the gothic needs to read it. It's outrageous, in every sense of the word.

Of course, there are the early American gothics as well, beginning with Charles Brockden Brown and moving onto Hawthorne, Melville and Poe, all of whom I read over and over. Favorites? Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables and The Marble Faun, Melville's Redfern and, of course, "Billy Budd"; and most anything by Poe, including the marginalia, and his scathing reviews of his contemporaries. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is fun as well, and a bit of a departure for Poe.

If I had to choose two writers whose style I most admire, they'd be Marguerite Yourçenar and Isak Dinesen. Yourçenar was a Frenchwoman who lived out her life on an island off the coast of Maine, and was the first Frenchwoman—born in Belgium, actually—elected to the Academie Française. Her best known novel is Hadrian's Memoirs, in which she fictionalizes the life of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The several volumes of her own memoirs are exquisite, as is her short novel, Alexis. Dinesen wrote a handful of longish short stories that are dreamlike in tone, with prose polished to a sheen. Among them are "The Supper at Elsinore," "Babette's Feast" and the seven gothic tales of, yes, Seven Gothic Tales.

Others? The Irishman William Trevor. He can sum up a character's life in a one-line description of their house, or their clothing. He can be ghoulish, and creepy in the best Celtic tradition—see the short story "Attracta," wherein a soldier's widow receives her husband's head via post!—or the novel, Felicia's Journey; and then he can break your heart, as in The Story of Lucy Gault. …Three writers who demonstrate what it means to have a "voice" of one's own: Colette, Alice Adams and Grace Paley.

Finally, if I had to chose one work of non-fiction to read over and over again, it would be The Journals of John Cheever—sad, sometimes funny, full of insight into both writing and life, and beautifully written.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: The Dracula Dossier.

--Marshal Zeringue