5 Questions with Lucy Corin, Author of The Swank Hotel

Nov 15, 2021

author photo of lucy corin, medium shot

Photo of Lucy Corin by Jessica Eve Rattner

Lucy Corin is the author of the the story collections One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses and The Entire Predicament, and the novel Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls. Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, Harper’s, Ploughshares, BOMB, Tin House, and the New American Stories anthology.

Her new book, The Swank Hotel, is published by Graywolf Press. She will be discussing her new book with special guests Susan Steinberg and Deb Olin Unferth as part of our City Lights LIVE! virtual events series on Monday, November 15th 2021!


Where are you writing to us from?

The Cross Sound Ferry, between NY & CT.

What’s kept you sane during the pandemic?

One thing I’m grateful for is that my sanity really hasn’t been at risk, but for sure I did find that during the onset of the pandemic, doing puzzles while listening to the news made it more possible for me to listen to the news, and folding laundry during Zoom meetings steadied me, mentally. I’m always grateful to live in a beautiful landscape with lots of places to walk, but I’ve also been especially aware of the beauty around me during this time. 

What books are you reading right now? Which books do you return to?

I’m partway through The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández (translated by Natasha Wimmer) and The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine. One book I return to is Calamities by Renee Gladman, and it’s been a particularly good book to return to during the pandemic, because reading it requires an act of meditation. Also, it’s about the literal and figurative lines that wind across words, drawing, imagining, and being in space, so it helps me access a creative space that has been hard to stay in touch with recently. 

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?

For The Swank Hotel, touchstones and guides were Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolf, Charles D’Ambrosio’s devastating essay “Documents” and Rachel Aviv’s incredibly tender essay “God Knows Where I Am.” Also Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 was key for me to read along the way, both in relation to its treatment of mental illness and as a model for form. 

As a reader, I try to follow my nose away from what I’ve already encountered toward reading experiences that are new for me. So maybe it’s more this way of reading than particular works that influence me. I do think I move through every day consuming one narrative after another, and really filter everything I encounter through the idea of story. Though visual art is a real exception to that. I actually try to make myself let go of narrative when I look at things. I am not a great visual or musical reader—in fact I have tried to allow myself to have a relationship with visual art and music that escapes my otherwise obsessive translation of experience into language and story.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

Of course I love bookstores, but I don’t ever want to own a bookstore unless it doesn’t have to make money. I remember being asked, as a child, what I wanted to do when I grew up, and saying I would like to do all sorts of things, just as long as I didn’t have to buy or sell anything. I’m sure I was an impossible child in other ways too. 

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