Sunday, November 16, 2008

Andrea Weiss

Andrea Weiss is a documentary filmmaker, nonfiction author, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Media and Communication Arts at The City College of New York, CUNY.

Her most recent book is In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Last week I finished reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. You've already heard, unless you've been hiding under a rock, that the story is fascinating and Winchester tells it amazingly well. Hard to believe that what is essentially a history of the dictionary can make for such a compelling read. All those accolades he received for it are well deserved.

I have also recently started Local Girl Makes History by Dana Frank, which so far is the perfect mix of anecdote, personal memoir and historical analysis. In the interest of full disclosure, Dana is a friend of mine. But she is also a terrific historian and her politics are always right on the money. I was among her loyal readership before I ever met her (through a random chat on a New York subway twenty years ago, strangely enough), so it's not because of friendship that I'm just groovin' on this book.

And I am very nearly finished with a book still in manuscript form, Brothers in Exile by Selig Kainer, coming out soon from Scarith Books (New Academia Publishing). It's calling itself "A Novel of the Lives and Loves of Thomas and Heinrich Mann" and basically takes their factual relationship, which has been the subject of quite a few biographies, as its point of departure. Let's face it, I started reading it only because I was asked to provide a quote for its jacket. After David Hajdu so graciously wrote one for me, it would have been churlish to turn Kainer down. And it turns out I am glad I didn't, because I probably never would have read it now that my own book is finished and I am finally, after way too many years, once and for all off the subject of the Mann family. (I saw a new English translation of Klaus Mann's novel Alexander in the St. Marks Bookshop the other day, and, incredibly, I didn't even buy it.) Anyway back to Kainer's novel: such an undertaking seems somewhat arcane, but the vivid detail he brings to it is gripping and his obsession with his characters is contagious. I think it is coming out around the end of the year -- watch for it.

The book I'll pick up next from my bedside pile is River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler. It has that magical look about it, so I'm really eager to dive in.
Read more about Andrea Weiss' films and books, and read an excerpt from and learn more about In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue