I never set out to write a memoir. Nor did I set out to become old. Apparently I have managed to do both, first the second, and then the first. Hence, Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, whose title was wittily suggested by one of my friends last year. I can’t remember which one, however.
I’ve recently been touring around giving talks and readings in bookstores, libraries, and colleges. The subject is my latest book, Now I Sit Me Down, a history of the chair. A common question from the audience is “What is your favorite chair?” I think that the implied question is actually “What is your favorite chair design?” But I prefer to answer it literally. I have come to the conclusion that what makes a chair a “favorite” is not the way it looks, or the fame of its designer, but rather the way it is used.
While I was writing The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, I surrounded myself with images from the 17th century, especially paintings and engravings of the Dutch Golden Age. I wanted to write a novel that came out of the gaps and silences of art history.
When writing my play The Oldest Boy, which involves an American child recognized as a Tibetan tulku, I often called people in the Tibetan community for help and insight. I’ll never forget when I first wrote to an eminent Tibetan scholar, asking to have a conversation about reincarnation, and he wrote back immediately, “I am happy to talk with you, as your play might benefit other sentient beings.”
Who better to inaugurate our All in a Day’s Work series than John Wray, itinerant sunpatch hopper and professional novelist funnyman? As he roamed Kings County in search of inspiration and capuccinos, we asked him to record his wanderings. The result, as you see, is a prototypical Wray in the Life. John’s newest novel is The Lost Time Accidents.
My second novel, What Lies Between Us, is primarily concerned with the lifelong effects of childhood trauma, how it colors and flavors a person in ways that they must contend with throughout their life. The book is also an exploration of motherhood and maternity in America. In my opinion, much of our culture is tragically unsupportive of mothers.
The secret to why I wrote a time travel novel is in my book’s dedication. I’m not a big science fiction reader. The inscription reads, For my father, George Daviau (1910-1992), who, by the stretch in our years, made me a time traveler.
In A House in St. John’s Wood, Matthew drew on unpublished letters and diaries, family keepsakes, and his remembrances to give his own account of a family in the midst of its own cold war. We asked him about the interaction of fact and memory, and the challenge of recreating his parents as characters in a memoir.
As airport layovers go, not many end up producing brilliant novels. Yet novelist and poet Jane Urquhart can recall the exact four hours in lonely Gander Airport 25 years ago—the revelatory Lochhead mural, the chance copy of a Simone de Beauvoir biography stuffed into her purse—that seeded the material for The Night Stages.
“There are voices you listen to, but they’re all in your own head.” James Sie, veteran voiceover actor, discusses the surreal but joyous experience of recording the audiobook for his debut novel, Still Life Las Vegas.
The allure of space is timeless; it as ingrained in humanity’s dreams as flight. In Benjamin Johncock’s mesmerizing debut, The Last Pilot, he takes us back to the heady days of Apollo. Benjamin wrote to us about how his childhood fascination had morphed into something new and beautiful.
Robyn Cadwallader, author of The Anchoress, shares her story of the trip to an English chapel that planted the seed of her novel.
Christine Breen, debut author of Her Name is Rose, shares a touching story on when the truth is stranger, and more difficult, than fiction.
Mary Costello’s latest novel, Academy Street, follows Tess Lohan from her girlhood in western Ireland through her relocation to America and her life there, concluding with a moving reencounter with her Irish family after forty years of exile. Here, Costello shares a beautiful meditation on her mother’s family home—how its emotional resonances bled into and […]
…And their cultural lives, and their intelligence, and their despairs and languages and music and lewd jokes, and their grappling with masks and disguises, and the craven and the heroic among them, and the ways that they perceive and apprehend the world in so many countless ways that we do not know, for all our […]
Robin Rinaldi, author of the electric memoir The Wild Oats Project, shines a light on the history of sex writing, and shows how she convinced herself to write so candidly about her experiences. Offering up a sex scene to a reader isn’t unlike offering sex. You might be accepted with caution or rejected with disgust. […]
To celebrate the publication of Daniel Torday’s debut novel, The Last Flight of Poxl West, we are pleased to present an original essay on what drove him to dig up his familial past, and how the stories he found became fuel for his fiction.
Among the great privileges of touring this year was encountering so many wonderful independent bookstores across the United States. Wherever I went, one thing remained constant: A passion for books that expressed itself in creative and unique ways.
As an outsider, reaching as far as I can, I find much to justify spending my life in this way. By continuously turning reality around, I have discovered that writing poetry, nonfiction, and fiction get at different parts of place and identity.
The stager had just spent a week rummaging in my attic and rearranging the pictures on my walls, and this seemed a rich setup: What if this woman had known me in some meaningful context, had known secrets about my family, or had held some sort of grudge? And what if I had been unaware that she was even in my house?