Saturday, August 3, 2013

Susanna Daniel

Susanna Daniel was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where she spent much of her childhood at her family’s stilt house in Biscayne Bay.

Her debut novel, Stiltsville, was awarded the PEN/Bingham prize for best debut work published in 2010. Stiltsville was also named a 2011 Summer Reading List pick by, a Best Debut of 2010 by, a Best Book of 2010 by the Huffington Post, and a Discover Great New Writers pick by Barnes & Noble. Daniel’s second novel, Sea Creatures, about a woman who ultimately must face the unthinkable choice between her husband and young son, is now available from HarperCollins. Abraham Verghese called Sea Creatures a “captivating, haunting novel.”

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Daniel's reply:
I’ve just finished Dale M. Kushner’s broad and impressive debut novel, The Conditions of Love, and I’m stunned – stunned – that I’m not hearing about it every time I pick up a newspaper or open a browser. It’s a classic, sweeping story of a girl’s life and the relationships that define her, from birth to old age – exquisitely detailed, finely paced, deliciously ambitious.

Before that, I read Lionel Shriver’s newest, Big Brother, and though I count myself a great fan of Shriver’s career, I can’t say I admired the prose or the story (this was true of We Need to Talk About Kevin, too, which I regretted reading even as I couldn’t put it down – that’s her particular and peculiar talent, I think. (Incidentally, I like to intentionally misname that book What We Talk About When We Talk About Kevin. For some reason, this rolls off the tongue more easily). What I consistently admire, though, is Shriver’s moxy. This is a word she would surely despise. I think there’s a lot about me she’d despise, actually – she seems like a person under whose gaze I would wither. But I remain persistently in awe of her.

(My admiration for the career more than each novel in particular extends also to Ian McEwan, who writes novels on a spectrum of readable-but-middling to unbelievably terrific – and who can do anything but respect the hell out of that? Ditto Meg Wolitzer. If I could, I’d choose to be a prolific but uneven novelist rather than an impeccable but parsimonious novelist any day of the week.)

Arcadia by Lauren Groff was the most satisfying – really, the most perfect -- novel I’ve read recently, and After Visiting Friends, the journalistic memoir by Michael Hainey, was the most inspiring. Because of that book, I started embarked on a large-scale project about my sister’s fatal accident in 1976.
Visit Susanna Daniel's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Stiltsville.

--Marshal Zeringue