Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. John Knowles’s A Separate Peace. Stephen King’s “The Body.” Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children. What do these books have in common? They’ve all inspired other authors to start writing, and are now part of Bookmarked, a new series from Ig Publishing about the works of literature that have left a lasting impression on the lives of contemporary writers.
The series is comprised of short, personal books from writers exploring how a particular work of fiction helped shape their writing and life. “It’s a simple idea,” Kirby Gann, series editor and author of the first volume, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, told Poets and Writers. “The series celebrates classic books on a personal, intimate level, as opposed to capital-C Criticism.”
The idea for the project came about after Gann and Ig editor-in-chief Robert Lasner were discussing their love of 33⅓, a series of books about music, each volume of which explores a specific album. Launched in 2003 by Bloomsbury, the series now includes more than a hundred titles on records ranging from Blondie’s Parallel Lines to Koji Kondo’s music for Super Mario Bros. “You can find memoirs of how the music affected the author’s life,” says Gann, “or a deeper, rock-historian’s view of the album’s lasting value, an argument over where it should be situated in the pantheon of classics.”
“Kirby and I agreed it would be a fun idea to do something similar with classic novels,” Lasner told Poets and Writers. “So I e-mailed him one day with the following question: ‘If you were to choose one novel that was fundamental to you as a writer, what would it be? Just tell me what pops into your head.’ Kirby wrote back, ‘A Separate Peace by John Knowles.’ That’s how Bookmarked got started.’” Like 33⅓, each installment of the Bookmarked series is short, under two hundred pages. Forthcoming volumes include Paula Bomer’s take on Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, Michael Seidlinger of Electric Literature on Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and award-winning author Steve Yarbrough on Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. Ig plans to publish at least four books in the series per year.
“We’re attempting to broaden the conversation about loved books,” says Gann. “For an individual writer, the project might be seen as an opportunity to write in a way that’s unfamiliar and out of one’s comfort zone—the chance to try a different mode for a bit and share something you love.”