As part of the MFA curriculum, The New School has something called The Writers’ Life Colloquium. Throughout the semester, the school schedules fiction writers, non-fiction writers, poets, agents, and others publishing industry people to visit the NS and do readings and panels. There’s also an interview with a moderator, as well as a Q & A element where students are encouraged to be a part of the discussion. We’ve had writers like Mary Gaitskill, Wally Lamb, Roxanna Robinson, and Ben Greenman read. Towards the end of the semester is the reading of all readings– The National Book Awards, where the finalists read on the eve of the annual ceremony.
Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love, read on Monday night. She read from the prior mentioned book, and also (!) gave us a taste of her new book, which hasn’t yet been completed. She said this of the new book in an interview: “It will deal with parents, children, and loss.” I adore this author and found The History of Love, a book within a book, to be so original and touching. The two narrators– Leo, an older man at the end of his life, and Alma, a teenage girl– are so different, yet carry a similar weight through their lives. Krauss does a beautiful job of tying the two narrators’ stories together at the end. If you haven’t yet read it, you should check it out. Krauss also wrote Man Walks Into a Room, which I’ve just picked up. It’s the story of a man who loses most of his memory after a brain tumor.
Nicole Krauss’ reading was lovely (interestingly, she said she didn’t like her books being called lovely, but that she understood they could be seen that way). She was very soft spoken. After the reading, she was quite generous with her thoughts and advice and seemed to light up when the talk moved into the writing process. She was dressed simply and had her long, dark hair pulled back halfway. She thoughtfully signed dozens of students’ book copies at the end of the reading. She seemed very real, very warm. I thought I’d share some random quotes/ moments from talk:
· Someone asked a question about writers being moral compasses and Krauss said that it is not the writer’s business. It is the writer’s business, she offered, to simply follow their instincts. The rest of the issues: moral, intellectual, aesthetic, should not be ours to worry about.
· Krauss said this about writing The History of Love, “I wrote in a blind fashion, sort of stumbling along.” And, “the process of discovery, it was quite frightening.”
· “When writing is going well, the whole world seems to be drawn into it,” she said.
· Something I found super interesting: Krauss had written poetry for years before moving into fiction. She’d published quite a bit of poetry and even won The Yale Younger Poet’s Prize in 2002. When she began to write her first novel, Krauss said she thought differently about language: “It shouldn’t matter to write beautifully,” she said. “It’s about depth of feeling.” It was apparent to her, she mentioned, that people want to be moved when the read. She said she writes with the reader in mind.
· “I don’t believe choking my writing up with any real plan,” she said.
· And my favorite, regarding being a writer, Krauss said: “I don’t know any other way to be a person in the world.” I tweeted this last quote yesterday and someone re-tweeted it, adding this: Neither do any of us.
Have a good day, writers!
“You’re a writer and that’s something better than being a millionaire—because it’s something holy.”