On Tuesday, September 16 the Italian novelist, Elena Ferrante, will be discussed at the The Center for Fiction in mid-town Manhattan. The panel will consist of the novelists Roxana Robinson and Stacey D’Erasmo and Ferrante’s exceptional translator, Ann Goldstein who is also an editor at The New Yorker. Ferrante is one of my favorite novelists. A friend introduced me to her work in late spring of this year and I have been devouring her ever since. I started with My Brilliant Friend, the first in the Neapolitan Novels. The second is The Story of a New Name; the third is Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay which has just been published by Europa Editions. The forth will be published next year. While awaiting the latest in the quartet I read Ferrante’s earlier books and they stunned me as well. I am late to the party. Over the past several years Ferrante has exploded all across the world with reviews and articles about her appearing everywhere: The New Yorker; TLS; The New York Times (Roxana Robinson‘s review of Ferrante’s latest); Slate and countless other places. What is it about Ferrante? For me it is simple: she manages to make me feel. She moves me tremendously. She is brutally honest about motherhood, about the conflict between motherhood and creativity, about mothers and daughters, about friendship, about what it means to be an Italian woman, more specifically from Naples. She brings a world to life – that of an impoverished Naples neighborhood in the second half of the 20th Century, bellowing out from a small insular community to a larger intellectual world that offers relief and escape. She is patient and generous in understanding her characters, realizing them with passion and ferocity, fearlessly getting inside the undercurrent of violence that accompanies their lives — especially the women. It had been a long time since I devoted myself to one writer, thrilling because so many of her books awaited me. When I received her latest in the mail from a friend it was as if Christmas had arrived early. A notorious recluse who writes under a pseudonym to further protect her privacy, Ferrante is shrouded in mystery — especially in these times when knowing all seems to have become an entitlement. But no one, or not many, really knows who Ferrante is beyond the power of what she leaves behind on the page. (In Italy, quite a few Italians are convinced that she is a man!) I was delighted to see that The Center for Fiction is hosting an event with such brilliant writers to discuss Ferrante’s work. Tuesday, September 16 7PM.
Originally written as a short story, “Anaconda” became a chapter in Bright Angel Time, my first novel. I wrote it a long time ago and hadn’t looked back until I had the lovely chance to hear “Anaconda” read by Lindsay Crouse. She read it to an audience at The Getty Center in Los Angeles and then a few Sundays ago it was aired on Selected Shorts. I am over the moon. Thank you Selected Shorts and Sarah Montague and Katherine Minton and Symphony Space! Listen here, if you like
This was a happy day. Four little girls running around with hundreds and hundreds of sheep, across the Scottish moors on the island of Colonsay. We were living there. I was three years old. All my father wanted was to catch and hold one of those little lambs. He succeed, clearly. My mother caught it with her camera, forty-five years ago.
I’ve been given many reasons to ponder the nature of friendship these past months — a most cherished value, to be a good friend. I certainly haven’t come up with anything new or profound, but this song, Sonya Alone, heard at Dave Malloy’s exhilarating electropop opera, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, says everything I feel about what a great friendship should be, especially a friendship between girls. It makes me ache each time I hear Brittain Ashford sing Sonya’s heartbreaking aria for Natasha. Listen.
Elizabeth Benedict has edited this wonderful collection. Here is a list of some lovely news concerning it:
1. Amazon has made the book one of its TOP 10 Book Gifts for Mother’s Day, along with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Lean In, and The Interestings.