"I Hold a Wolf by the Ears"
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Laura van den Berg’s most recent collection of short stories, “I Hold a Wolf by the Ears,” which was published in July, was named a “best summer read” by The New York Times, Time Magazine, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar and Entertainment Weekly. But if you’re expecting to catch the Florida native on the beach with some kind of light, breezy read ... well ...

“I take whatever book I’m reading everywhere with me,” said van den Berg, who splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida, with her husband and dog. “This meant that I was the person reading a book about climate change — ‘Disposable City: Miami’s Future on the Shores of Climate Catastrophe,’ by Mario Alejandro Ariza — on the beach this summer.”

But followers of van den Berg’s work know the writer’s short stories and two novels — including “Find Me” and “The Third Hotel,” which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award — are anything but easy-beach reads. Her 2013 collection of short stories, “The Isle of Youth,” was named a “Best Book of 2013” by over a dozen outlets, including NPR, The Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Van den Berg will virtually join Heidi Pitlor for a True Conversations event with The Mount from 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

Van den Berg will discuss “I Hold a Wolf by the Ears,” which, according to The Mount’s news release “presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of ‘Slumberland,’ ‘that border between magic and annihilation,’ and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.”

Ahead of her scheduled sit down with Pitlor for Mount audience members over Zoom, van den Berg shared some of her favorite short stories and books that have kept her awake at night.

Q: What are some of your favorite short stories?

A: “Adela’s House,” and “The Dirty Kid,” by Mariana Enriquez; “Marie,” by Edward P. Jones; “The Christmas Miracle,” by Rebecca Curtis; “The Country,” by Joy Williams; “Bloodchild,” by Octavia Butler.

Q: What are some of your favorite horror novels, or short stories, that kept you awake at night?

A: I mentioned Mariana Enriquez’ stories before, and her collection ”Things We Lost in the Fire” is a powerfully haunted book. I also love Kelly Link’s ghost stories, and Victor Lavalle’s “The Devil in Silver.”

Q: Do you have a favorite book set in Florida, and if so, what is it?

A: Too hard to choose! I feel like Central Florida, where I’m from, has been represented a little less in contemporary fiction, so I was really excited when Kristen Arnett’s “Mostly Dead Things” came out. It’s a wild, big-hearted novel — and very Florida.

Q: What is your favorite work by Edith Wharton?

A: Well, since we’ve been on the subject, Edith Wharton wrote amazing ghost stories — “The Lady Maid’s Bell” is one of my favorites.

Q: What book did you recently read that you couldn’t put down?

A: Claire Messud’s new essay collection, “Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write,” offers such wisdom and shelter, and some very brilliant insights into contemporary literature. Also, I loved Matthew Salesses’s novel “Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear.” Perfect for readers who love a heady mystery.

Q: What books are currently on your nightstand?

A: I just got a galley of “The Farthest South,” by Ethan Rutherford, out early next year. I had the great pleasure of reading an earlier version, but I’m already looking forward to re-reading the stories. It’s a marvelous collection.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh can be reached at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6211. On Twitter: @Lhollenbaugh.


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