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Bibliophiles

A genre-crossing crooner and admirer of Twain

Besides Mark Twain, Neko Case counts herself a big fan of Sherman Alexie and Lynda Barry. Besides Mark Twain, Neko Case counts herself a big fan of Sherman Alexie and Lynda Barry. (Jason Decrow/ Associated Press/ File 2009)
By Amanda Katz
Globe Correspondent / January 30, 2011

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One musical genre is not enough for Neko Case, who writes haunted, shimmering alt-country songs as a solo artist and also contributes brassy vocals to the power-pop outfit The New Pornographers. Since the release of her acclaimed 2009 album “Middle Cyclone,” she has spent most of her time on the road; she plays in Boston at the Wilbur Theatre on Feb. 3. Case grew up mostly in Washington state, but recently settled in New England, on an old farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Which writers do you most like?

Annie Dillard is my favorite because she doesn’t write like a woman or a man. You know how hunters spray that stuff on them so deer can’t smell them? It’s almost like she can become invisible, as far as point of view. It doesn’t say woman or man; it just says human.

It’s so beautiful, but then it’s also, like, a rich bacon flavor. It’s like a bacon chandelier. It’s like a Swarovski crystal bacon chandelier, hanging in a log cabin.

Who else do you like to read?

I’m hugely into Sherman Alexie and Lynda Barry. They both write from the point of view of being poor and from Washington state, so their vernacular speaks to me. And they both have incredible senses of humor. That’s how I felt growing up: No matter how poor we were, we really did think it was funny.

I just bought the autobiography of Mark Twain, which I can’t even tell you how excited I am to read. I love his optimism. Even while he’s pointing out the flaws of mankind, he always makes sure you see what can happen if it turns the other way. He’s not like Charles Dickens. He’s so much more hopeful. He can see value in people, even the ones who are completely terrible, and that makes him one of our most valuable national treasures.

If your songs were books, what kind would they be?

I think they would be like Eastern European fairy tales. They’re cautionary but humorous, and they don’t necessarily tell you what happens at the end, and hopefully they draw you in enough so you become the main character and can flow through the story like you’re in it.

Did you grow up reading as a kid?

Yes. I read like a maniac. The thing that got me crazy about books was “Watership Down.” I saw it on my mom’s nightstand, and there was a rabbit on the cover. And I thought, “Adults don’t read books about rabbits!’’ So I picked it up. I burned through the whole thing, and it totally changed my life. I was probably about 8.

Speaking of kids and reading, the nonprofit 826 National is raffling off your 1967 Mercury Cougar in February. How did that happen?

I wanted to do something for charity, and 826 kept coming up. I was a huge fan of Dave Eggers and all the things they do, and I just realized this was what I’m interested in. They do things with kids’ writing like printing it — and when little kids see their writing in book form, it makes them go, “Oh! My writing is important.” And the fact that it’s free . . . it’s so inspirational, and inclusive. I could really have used that when I was little.

People forget that when you grow up poor, that’s all you know. It’s hard to visualize bettering yourself, becoming a great writer or artist or dog trainer or linebacker for the New York Jets. You need to see people doing it. And if it’s books that show you people are doing it, that’s as good as real people.

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