The Shelf: Natasha Trethewey
September 1, 2010Teresa WeaverComments
Trethewey on . . .
Writing prose versus poetry It’s very different. I can get lost in writing a poem and forget what time it is. There were moments when I got lost in the prose writing, but mostly . . . it was a different kind of work, and I just wasn’t used to it . . . One of the reasons I’m always writing about history is that I think it takes me a long time to process things that have come to pass. I need a great amount of distance from them.
Home Gulfport is always home to me, because I think of it psychologically as the place that made me. But I imagine living my life somewhere else.
The Pulitzer effect I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. But I felt like this then, and I still feel like this now: It’s a great danger to bring either past failures or past successes anytime you sit down to write.
Reading the dictionary for fun Every single word is a poem! And when you read the history of a
word . . . I just love that.
Guilty reading pleasures I have to admit that I’m a fiend for academic fiction, on the low end and the high end. I just read P.F. Kluge’s Gone Tomorrow, an academic novel with a murder—in an English department, even. One of my colleagues told me about Jane Langton, who writes a lot of these English-department murder mysteries, including one at an Emily Dickinson symposium. I read these books like I would eat chocolate!
Also new . . .
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
(Random House, $30)
Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, spent more than a decade researching and writing this mesmerizing blend of history and narrative journalism. Using the lives of three people, the former Emory professor chronicles the migration of African Americans from the South to cities in the North and West, from World War I to the 1970s. “It was the first big step the nation’s servant class ever took without asking,” Wilkerson writes.
A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell
(Algonquin Books, $24.95)
Emory professor Joseph Skibell’s sweeping, fantastical novel begins in Vienna in the 1890s, on the night his protagonist meets Sigmund Freud, and ends in a Warsaw ghetto in the 1940s. By following the storied life of young Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, a hopeless romantic, Skibell fashions a magnificent portrait of Eastern Europe and modern history.
My Bright Midnight by Josh Russell
(LSU Press, $18.95 paperback)
In this captivating love-hate story set in World War II–era New Orleans, the city itself is one of author Josh Russell’s greatest, most indelibly drawn characters: “Sweet flowers and sour booze, fried fish and rank garbage, baking bread and burning tires: New Orleans’s tricky balance of perfume and stink.” Russell teaches at Georgia State University.
Photograph by Joel Benjamin