Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Joy Castro

Born in Miami, Joy Castro is the author of The Truth Book: A Memoir (University of Nebraska), the literary thriller Hell or High Water (St. Martin’s), and the essay collection Island of Bones (University of Nebraska). Her new novel, Nearer Home, is a sequel to Hell or High Water.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what she was reading.  Castro's reply:
Simone Weil’s classic 1939 essay The Iliad or the Poem of Force is a short book, but it’s been taking me a long time to read, because I’ve been going very slowly, taking notes, asking questions, and paraphrasing Weil’s key ideas for myself.

Weil was a French philosopher and mystic, and The Iliad or the Poem of Force is her meditation on how violence functions. It dovetails well with Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain and Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, two brilliant and painful books.

The edition I have includes the text in its original French, as well as the original passages from Homer in Greek, as well as an English translation by editor James Holoka. I don’t read French or Greek, but it’s interesting to look at the originals and wonder.

I’d seen many allusions to Weil’s essay over the years and finally decided to read it for myself. I’d like to have it underpin the views of a character I’m developing for the third Nola C├ęspedes novel. I want this character—a villain—to have a coherent, sophisticated philosophy of violence rather than to just be motivated by simple brutality or greed, so I hope to absorb Weil’s meditations deeply into myself and then have the character speak from those insights.

I should clarify that Weil is not advocating violence—not at all. She is analyzing it. There is a strange combination of coolness and heartbrokenness about the text. I’d like to learn from that complexity. Very smart, very cool antagonists have always seemed far scarier to me than those who commit violent but simple crimes of passion or greed, so I want to bring that intellectual creepiness to the next Nola novel.
Visit Joy Castro’s website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Hell or High Water.

Writers Read: Joy Castro (July 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue