The Goucher community loves to read,
and I want to keep talking about it.
1. Who are you and what are you interested in?
My name’s Max Eber, I’m a 2011 graduate of Goucher College and studied English, concentration creative writing while there. I’m pretty scattered interests wise, it causes a bit of a problem as it sort of leaves me unable to pursue all of them. For instance I love art but didn’t have time to finish an art minor while at Goucher. I was also lured into acting by my friends (as in forced) but having done it I found I really loved it and since then I would love to do more theatre and cultivate that craft through dance and singing lessons. But it’s hard to fit that in at the moment since I also enjoy horticulture and garden design and since graduation have started my own landscape design business as a means to support myself. Have already had a few clients this spring already so it’s looking to be an interesting year. Otherwise I really enjoy play and screenwriting, I’m in the midst of writing a play adapted from this Italian folktales that’s turning into sort of a Shakespeare pastiche. It’s bawdy but in a frothy way which is pretty fun.
Otherwise I’m into superhero comics (particularly the Batman Family) and vintage film, animation, illustration, clothing and design. Pretty much anything to do with aesthetics and design interests me.
2. What are you reading now?
It’s a bit embarrassing since it’s not very literary, but outside of plant nursery catalogs, I’ve actually been engrossed in reading cooking books. I’m a foodie and can make some deserts but I’m rather lazy when it comes to making savory food for myself. I’ve been experimenting and have been making a point to try to actually cook actual meals. Other than that I’ve been reading Italian Folktales retold by Italo Calvino, of which the tale I’m adapting for my play is from. It was the only story in the book that was relatively pedestrian and domestic. There was no magic or any of the other fairytale trappings that pepper the other stories in the book and so it really stood out to me and reminded me of Taming of The Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing.
3. What is the most important book you have ever read?
Really hard question as I sort of equate a lot of books to food, you read them and sort of absorb them as you would food’s calories and nutritional content. So they all contribute whether you like it or not. I could say admittedly I get impatient with a lot of novels. I find really well written short stories can deliver a much more concentrated shot of emotions or leave one particularly disturbed. I really owe a lot of my creativity though to a lot of the picture books and young adult novels I grew up with. I’m very visual so these days I appreciate when revisiting my childhood library those books that had beautiful illustrations. My mom used to work at a children’s bookstore so she had a pretty extensive cache of children’s classics and sort of forgotten oddball works around the house growing up. I guess favorites, pretty unsurprising would be things by Doctor Seuss and Maurice Sendak (doesn’t take much to figure out why I liked Where The Wild Things Are) especially Pierre (A Cautionary Tale) and love even ones he didn’t write but illustrated as he did for a Sesyle Joslin book on manners called What Do You Say Dear? Other things are the sort of amazing for their art is Imps. Demons. Hobgoblins. Witches. Fairies & Elves by Leonard Baskin, Masquerade by Kit Williams and The Practical Princess by Jay Williams, illustrated by Frisco Henstra.
As far as determinate life changers, probably reading Thorton Wilder’s playThe Skin of Our Teeth sticks as it brought together both a bizarre flippancy and dead seriousness together in one package sort of through me for a loop. I also owe a lot of credit to Italo Calvino, Oscar Wilde, and J.D. Salinger.
4. If you could suggest one book, what would it be and why?
Probably Italo Calvino’sDifficult Loves, the Riviera section of stories is truly beautiful.
I sort of worship Salinger’s 9 Stories though, it’s far superior to Catcher In The Rye. I adapted the story Teddy from this book to the stage for class at Goucher but since Salinger’s estate pretty much has embargoes on his work so I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to stage it anywhere. It’s funny I remember having to read the book in ninth grade and I sort of wanted nothing to do with it. But after the fact and during discussion I started really enjoying the short stories. Salinger’s work is also pretty dated, obviously influenced by the movies of the time, and I’m not sure if it’s sadistic but I enjoy seeing Salinger’s sort of affluent rich white people having mental breakdowns, being alcoholics. The general permanence of sadness and unrest in many of the stories is very, I also like how he writes children. Probably half the appeal to me is to see that idealized chic image of post WWII sort of upper class aesthetic and lifestyles being sort of punctured or sullied by mental illness, alcohol and depression as well as other vices and issues. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition that reminds me of some episodes of The Twilight Zone, as well as Hitchcock movies and the Hitchcock Blonde concept where often very kept people that often embody that aesthetic are thrown into odd situations and or suddenly or even quietly unravel before us. Despite the heavy hitters like A Perfect Day for Banana Fish and Teddy the book has some wonderfully sweet, sincere moments too that I envy a lot as a writer. I’m more inclined to write comedy so it’s always very enviable when other writers can pull off tender and somber moments without it appearing too trite on either.