Virtual Memories Show 445:
Heather Cass White

“I’m sure that my obsessive focus on reading, as much as it is anything else, is a sign of a wound, or a lack.”

Author & professor Heather Cass White joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book. Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life (FSG). We get into what reading does & doesn’t do for us, how we can lose ourselves & find ourselves in books, how this book gestated for decades while she was working on her scholarship of Marianne Moore, how she snagged the title from a line by Milton, and how promiscuously we should read the word “promiscuously”. We also talk about her read-to-bits childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables, the possibility of getting too much out of Henry James, the lessons she took from studying with Harold Bloom, why you shouldn’t read as if you’re going to die (prompted by my recent health issues), the importance of keeping a patient attitude toward poetry, why she decided not to do more reading about reading once she started to write a book about reading, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Books Promiscuously Read!

“My experience of reading is that it is a whole self experience. I can’t think of many part of myself that haven’t been engaged in some point in my life as a reader. So I liked that sense of ‘promiscuously’ as both unplanned, haphazard, random, but also as playful, contrarian and transgressive. I liked the word for every reason.”

“Once I started to investigate the files in my computer, I discovered ones going back 15 or 20 years. I realized that this book had been waiting for me.”

“There’s very little that happens throughout the day that doesn’t spark some little verbal association to a poem or a novel. A good half of what I think, I don’t know if I even think it, so much as these words are in my head and have taken up residence there.”

“In a funny way, this book is repaying a kind of debt. Reading has shaped my life in every way possible, it felt like I owed it something.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Heather Cass White has edited several collections of Marianne Moore’s work: New Collected Poems; A-Quiver with Significance: Marianne Moore, 1932–1936; and Adversity & Grace: Marianne Moore, 1936–1941. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama. Her new book is Books Promiscuously Read.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Heather by Crosby Thomley. It’s on my instagram.