Episode 12: Paul Lisicky

Books Mentioned on The Spine

  • The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams
  • Breaking and Entering by Joy Williams
  • Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
  • Because I Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill
  • Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
  • Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
  • The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Writers Mentioned

  • Robert Creeley
  • Charles Olson
  • Flannery O'Connor
  • Donald Barthelme
  • Ann Beattie
  • Raymond Carver
  • Virginia Woolf


  • "I was not a word person as a kid, and was not developed enough as a word person by the time I entered college to say, 'This is what I want to do.' It was an accidental discovery."
  • "I took a creative writing workshop on a whim, and I had a professor who was probably more enthusiastic about my work than it deserved at the time. I remember she followed me down the hall after a workshop and said, 'You know, that was really good.' That was all she said, but that was life-changing to me. So, I think my reading life and my writing life started in earnest at that point because I was given some affirmation from an unlikely source."
  • "I'm primarily more interested in how a story is told: the sound of it, the descriptions, the atmosphere the writer creates. I can read anything in terms of content as long as it feels distinctive, the texture of a very particular voice."
  • "I do think that I feel taken care of as a reader once it feels like I've stepped into someone else's skin and that I'm guided by a voice that's really particular. ...It's just like listening to a song and hearing a voice and knowing intuitively, even on an animal level, 'That voice feels like home to me.'"
  • "When I come across a writer who can write a paragraph that feels fully present, it comes as such a relief. It feels like a balm. Like, 'So this is what it's like to be alive.'"
  • On Flannery O'Connor: "Something about the comic in sync with questions about mortality, grace, forgiveness, judgment — all of that felt like a potent brew to me."
  • On Mary Gaitskill: "You're reading a writer who is writing at full attention. There's just no room for anything but maximum focus."
  • On Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts: "It's a soul and a mind laid bare for the reader."
Paul Lisicky, author and guest of The Spine podcast