Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sophie Gee

Sophie Gee is the author of the acclaimed novel The Scandal of the Season, and an assistant professor in the Department of English at Princeton.

She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on eighteenth-century literature from Milton to Jane Austen, as well as on the history of satire. She lectures on subjects ranging from The Canterbury Tales to South Park and Catch-22.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve got a few books on the go right now. First of all, I’m re-reading The Time Traveler’s Wife because the new novel I’m writing is a love story about a woman who discovers that she can walk into the past. One of the things I like about Niffenegger’s book is her perception that the fantasy of returning to the past is about recovering experiences that we already know, that are already familiar. There’s something comforting about the time-travel fantasy; it’s about finding yourself, again and again. The emotions of memory are sadnesses and happinesses that we already know; the book is really about how this exists alongside the experience of the unknown.

I’m also reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Susanna Clarke does an especially good job of describing the transition from a real world to the world of English faerie. The fantasy world feels familiar at the same time that it’s strange and eerie, which raises the possibility that it’s a world the characters have created in their own minds.

I’m also reading The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, which is a wonderfully written and rather romantic story about collaboration between a small group of plant enthusiasts and naturalists that led to the establishment of England as the world’s greatest nation of gardeners. Some of the most amazing parts of the story relate how a London cloth merchant managed to set up a seed-import business with an unsophisticated American farmer. It’s about the trans-Atlantic world in the eighteenth century and gardens, two of my most passionate interests.

Finally, I’m re-reading The Magicians, a novel by my partner Lev Grossman, which is being published in August by Viking. I know I’m a partial reader, but it’s really an awesome book, It’s about a very clever, but confused and unhappy boy named Quentin, who, seemingly miraculously, discovers a college for young Magicians in upstate New York. Quentin enters a world that seems just like the one he knows, but which is transformed by being filled with magic. Once at Brakebills, Quentin is singled out as special and gifted in exactly the way he’d always dreamed of. But life is dark and complex and challenging, and his experiences in the real world aren’t nearly enough when he enters a world of real magic. The Magicians is Harry Potter for grown-ups —it’s a fantasy page-turner with lots of college humor and sex and drugs and drink.
Read an excerpt from The Scandal of the Season and learn more about the novel at Sophie Gee's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Scandal of the Season.

--Marshal Zeringue