Rita Ciresi, 48, director of the creative writing program at USF in Tampa, is the recipient of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Prize for the Novel. Her books include Mother Rocket, Pink Slip and Remind Me Again Why I Married You.
What is on your nightstand?
Three books that I just finished that I greatly admired are Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey, Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon, Closing Time by Joe Queenan. What I'm planning to read next is It's Not That I'm Bitter by Gina Barreca. Barreca is probably the funniest woman writing in America.
How can she be so hilarious?
It's hard to analyze humor. Barreca herself did it so well in her study They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted: Women's Strategic Use of Humor, but I would say that she does what all great comedians do. (She) latches onto the absurd, looks at it from a number of equally absurd angles and is pretty fearless at making fun of anything, including herself.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer