In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we welcome Rebecca Makkai to the blog. Her story “The Way You Hold Your Knife” first appeared in Ecotone and is now also in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.
What books are open on your desk right now?
I don’t read at my desk (I sit here enough as it is) so nothing’s open right now except the New Yorker, and only because I was messaging a friend to add to our ongoing conversation about the way the New Yorker is so unflattering in its physical descriptions of its subjects. Seriously, don’t ever give a quote to them or they’ll say you look like an angry rabbit with crooked teeth.
Where did the idea for “The Way You Hold Your Knife,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?
I was still teaching an elementary Montessori class at the time, and two of my students had chosen to do a report on bogs, which quickly turned into a report on bog mummies. Then I remembered a college professor telling a story about her grad school roommate, an archeology student who didn’t want to be buried in a grave but left somewhere unusual so she could give someone “the joy of discovery.” I put those together—along with some scandalous rumors from my undergraduate days—and had the makings of a really strange story.
If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?