Lives in Books #3: Adelle Stripe

Adelle Stripe’s debut novel, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, was inspired by the life and work of playwright Andrea Dunbar. It was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and Portico Prize. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, and her writing has appeared in The Quietus, New Statesman and Caught by the River. Her recent publications include Sweating Tears with Fat White Family for Rough Trade Books and an essay in Faber & Faber’s forthcoming Excavate: The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall. She is currently writing her second novel.

1 What are you reading at the moment?

I’m devouring Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbour’s Wife and St Augustine’s Confessions.

2 Did you enjoy reading while growing up – if so, which comics/books and writers were your favourites and why?

I was a voracious reader and had an advanced reading age – which resulted in reading lots of ‘unsuitable’ adult books including Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins and the filthy verse of Pam Ayres. As a child, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Ursula K Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea. All were portals to another dimension, offering some element of escape from the dreary brewery town that I grew up in.

3 Which books do you recommend to others and why?

I always recommend Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women. Her exquisite short stories are easy to digest, and I believe her to be one of the finest American writers in 20th century literature. Recently, I’ve suggested Adam Hochschild’s Leopold’s Ghost to a few friends. It’s one of the most important history books I’ve read and reveals the vile colonial history of the Congo. Anyone interested in Heart of Darkness or Kurtz should read this book. It’s a masterpiece.

4 If any, which writers have influenced your writing?

Gordon Burn, John Fante, Cookie Mueller, Mary Gaitskill, Norman Lewis, Niall Griffiths, Herbert Huncke, Tony Parker, Virginie Despentes and Alexander Trocchi are all authors I admire – but it’s hard to say if they influence me, as I think as writers we suck up material from television, plays, art, newspapers, and even the music we listen to. I’d argue that my collection of reggae 45s, Robert Crumb comics or Werner Herzog films have as much significance on the work I create as the writers I’ve just mentioned.

5 Desert Island question – which book would you take with you?

The Norton Anthology of Poetry – if it could fit in the suitcase. All of the world’s secrets are buried within its pages.


To order Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile for £8.99 (plus p&p) from J. E. Books, you can get in touch by the contact form on this site or email – All orders over £40 have free postage and packaging.

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