My new fact-based novel about a famous man’s wife 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. Now I do not customarily hear voices but had heard the novelists I teach say their characters speak to them all the time. I’d never believed them, exactly. Now it was happening to me.
I wrote this novel in a dream, revising it over several years and adding a second narrator. I have loved, loved, loved working on this book, for which I will use here not the actual title but one that will serve for now: HUSBANDS AND DAUGHTERS.
History-based fiction, filling in the blanks and making the past live for us. Hilary Mantel got me thinking about that with WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES and then I learned that Hilary Mantel was not always Hilary Mantel: that she had done other things before these wonderful books. And then there was THE PARIS WIFE, another book for the literati and others.
The last two posts announce new books I expect to be available soon: PICNIC IN THR DARK: CLASSIC BOOKS AT A TIME OF WAR AND LOSS, the subject of the next blog, and my fact-based imagined life of a famous man’s wife.
My regular blog-site switches to mariannatorgovnick.tumblr.com. I was missing the social media side. But the site you’re viewing remains the place to learn more about me and my work. Look for some announcements soon.
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, for sure, but also for Didion herself, who has not entered old age with resilience or any care for wisdom. She’s frail, she tells us again and again. But she’s also Joan Didion and a killer writer still, though she claims not and relies more than may be wise on the repetition of key phrases. All through the book——a book about her daughter’s death——you keep wondering, what happened? What several things (for there seem to be several things) went wrong? It’s not that kind of memoir. Didion will not go there so you need to look back at THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING to hear more.
Francisco Goldman’s SAY HER NAME, which I thought wonderful and gripping, 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: PICNIC IN THE DARK: THE CLASSICS AT A TIME OF WAR AND LOSS. 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 mariannatorgovnick.tumblr.com. I love this work and can’t wait to read more!