Elena Ferrante at The Center for Fiction

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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 YorkerTLS; 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.

Women Behaving Badly: Five Novels I Love

The Center For Fiction launches its online magazine, The Literarian.

Gone With the Wind

As young girl watching the Million Dollar Movie with my sisters, I met Scarlett O’Hara and fell in love. Her dark curls and green eyes, her swishing hoop dress–determined and strong and brave, Scarlett did as she pleased, both good and bad. My sisters and I rooted for her as she stole boyfriends, married men she didn’t love, helped Melanie birth her baby, escaped a burning Atlanta, tore curtains from windows to make a gown so she could look like a queen for Rhett, kneeled in Tara’s garden and vowed, “If I have to lie, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”  She did kill, she did cheat, she did lie, and she was never hungry again.  My sisters and I were good girls who already understood that girls were expected to behave well and be quiet.  Scarlett struck us with awe.  In tough times, my sisters and I would say to each other, “Pretend you’re Scarlett and push through.”  I watched the movie many times until I was old enough to read the book.  I learned through Scarlett that characters could be as real as living people.  She infused me with courage and taught me what a freedom it would be to live life as she did, by her own rules, unburdened by the opinions of others.

Wonder what the other four novels are?  READ MORE