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 Oprah.com, a Best Debut of 2010 by Amazon.com, 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.Visit Susanna Daniel's website and blog.
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.
The Page 69 Test: Stiltsville.