I started to write The History of Love in the spring of 2002, just after my first novel was published. It was a strange time: wonderful, but also melancholy. Something about the feeling of writing seemed to change for me once the book was published. I felt, a bit, as if I’d lost something hard to put my finger on, something personal and natural that I’d loved about writing. I was working on a new book, but my heart wasn’t quite in it. So one day I decided to throw away the hundred or so pages I had. I wanted to give up my old ideas about writing — or at least about trying to write well — and just write something for myself. To no end. A nothing.
So I have all these notes—actually, two sorts of notes that I take. The first happens during the writing, often in first year of writing a book, when I’m trying to figure out how the stories will dovetail and connect. I almost think of it as sort of architecture or woodwork, the way you lay pieces together and how the joints will kind of fit. Those notes are arrows with the character’s name. … These endless kind of pictorial descriptions of how these abstract ideas will relate.
The second form of note is a kind of mathematical calculation that happens later in the book, which is chronology. Because if you want two people meet on the boat, one of them can’t get on the boat in 1946 while the other one gets on the boat in 1947. But it doesn’t always work out that way when you first write it. So there are endless mathematical calculations—you know, 22 minus 13—and just desperately hoping that I didn’t make some massive plot mistake in all of my free association.
I really take great pleasure in that kind of architecture. I guess in life I have a very strong spatial sense. There’s something about how my mind works that has patience for the delicate complexity of how parts can fit together—and the great discovery of the whole, which you can only see as you walk away and look back on the whole thing. I don’t get a sense for the whole until very, very far into the writing.
Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss
Sneaking in one last book for 2007. Appropriately, it is actually a remainder table find 🙂
Man Walks into a Room is Nicole Krauss’s first (or debut, as the literati like to say) novel. Krauss is married Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer is, aykb, a literary darling. I haven’t read any of his work (though I might have to now) because having read MWiaR, I have to wonder why he gets all the attention.
Loved this book.
One of the dust jacket blurbs says, “Man Walks into a Room is that rare thing: an evocative, finely written first novel that is a true work of fiction.” —A.M. Homes. (In that respect, it reminded me of Eden and her first novel, which she really needs to find a publisher for!)
Samson Greene is a 36-year-old literature professor with a wife and a life in New York city until the removal of a benign brain tumor causes him to lose the last 24 years of his memory. MWiaR is about his reaction to that loss, but it is also an exploration of mind and memory, loneliness and intimacy:
…then and there it occurred to him that maybe the emptiness he’d been living with all this time hadn’t really been emptiness at all, but loneliness gone unrecognized. How can a mind know how alone it is until brushes up against some other mind? A single mark had been made, another person’s memory imposed onto his mind, and now the magnitude of his own loss was impossible for Samson to ignore. (pp. 192-193)
Near the end of the book, there was a riff on WASPy nicknames like Pip and Chip and Kick. Would’ve been a throwaway bit, except one of the names was Apple. Had to check the dates to see if she was poking fun at Gwyneth Paltrow, but no, Gwyneth’s daughter wasn’t born until 2004. I guess she was just prescient 😉