Category Archives: books

Fact-Based Fictions

My first fact-based novel began one day when a voice started forming paragraphs in my head and I realized who was speaking: the juicy wife of an author on whom I had worked, a lot. I do not customarily hear voices—not at all—but the novelists I teach say that characters speak to them. I’d never believed it, exactly. Now it was happening to me.

I wrote my first novel in a dream, revising it over several years—adding a second narrator and then deleting her and following an agent’s and editor’s suggestions until the book, while still magical for me, had changed. My heroine lost a lover, or two, or even three; always strong, she smoothed some of her rough edges. In short, fiction prevailed over fact—as it should. I loved, loved, loved working on this book, for which I will use here not the actual title but one that will serve: WIVES AND LOVERS.

My second literary novel used third person rather than first and that scared me at first; I couldn’t depend on a voice speaking to me, almost speaking through me. But I found that I enjoyed the greater freedom third person allows and soon found that multiple voices emerged organically, sometimes via third person subjective. I’m still revising this book, but almost done, and will announce quite soon novel number two!

I’ve always loved history-based fiction, novels that fill in the blanks and make the past live. Now I have written two of my own. Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES got me thinking about publishing my work and then I learned that Hilary Mantel was not always Hilary Mantel: that she had done other things before these wonderful books, just as I have had a career writing what people call “acclaimed” non-fiction, like GONE PRIMITIVE. LOVING FRANK, THE PARIS WIFE, VANESSA AND HER SISTER reach, I believe, both the literati, and others. I hope people find my books fun, but also smart.

My regular blog-site switches to I’ll blog there occasionally but find that social media keep us all fairly busy. I’m on Facebook as Marianna Torgovnick; on Twitter as Marianna_tor, with the Twitter feed appearing to the right. The site you’re viewing remains a place to learn more about me and my work.

Who We are in Memoir: A New Book

I am pondering who we are and want to be in memoir.

Maybe we have no choice. But writing takes time and revision and so, in fact, we always do.

Reading Joan Didion’s BLUE NIGHTS made me sad: for her daughter, of course, but also for Didion herself, who has not entered old age with resilience or wisdom. She’s frail, she tells us again and again. But she’s also Joan Didion and a killer writer still, though she relies more than may be wise on the repetition of key phrases. All through the book——a book about her daughter’s death——I kept wondering, what happened? What several things (for there seem to have been several things) went wrong? Didion will not go there so you need to look back at THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING to hear more.

I found Francisco Goldman’s SAY HER NAME wonderful and gripping. It sent me on this memoir binge. Roland Barthes’ MOURNING DIARY kept me there since I had recently lost a mother and a brother too.

So I have been doing my own writing, hoping to do it in way that feels true to me and speaks to others. I am processing my new book: THE CLASSICS AT A TIME OF WAR. It’s a sequel to my earlier memoir about growing up in-between Italian and Jewish American cultures in New York. It’s also a meditation on why we read classic books at times of loss and how they speak to us at this time of ongoing wartime.

I’ll say more from time to on