Friday, March 1, 2013

Aria Beth Sloss

Aria Beth Sloss is a graduate of Yale University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Arts Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, and the Vermont Studio Center, and her writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Harvard Review, and online at The Paris Review and FiveChapters.

Her newly released debut novel is Autobiography of Us.

Last month I asked Sloss about what she was reading. Her reply:
In the weeks before Autobiography came out, Carlene Bauer’s debut novel, Frances and Bernard, kept popping up on my radar; the other day when I was at the Strand, skulking around the “S” aisle, I picked up a copy. It’s a marvel of a book – concise, thoughtful, elegant, heartbreaking. She tells the story of a complex relationship between a poet and a fiction writer in the early 1960’s, and she does the whole thing through letters. The characters are loosely based on Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, so Bauer is essentially conjuring up the voices of two exceptional minds – the miracle is that she pulls it off, and seamlessly. I was deeply impressed by her wit, imagination, and sheer chutzpah.

I’ve been a big fan of Andrew Solomon’s writing for years now. His latest, Far From the Tree, is every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped. He spent years researching families with children who have what he calls “horizontal identities” – i.e. “recessive genes, random mutations, prenatal influences or values and preferences that a child does not share with his progenitors.” These are children born into the Deaf community, children with Down’s, children born as the result of rape…. I picked up Solomon’s book at seven-plus months pregnant and couldn’t put it down. People thought it was a strange choice for a first-time mother-to-be, but I’d argue that it should be assigned reading for every prospective parent. Solomon’s vision of family includes all the compassion, wonder, heartbreak, and love too often absent from today’s discussions of what it means to bring new life into this world.

I’m almost finished with Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox, and I’m sorry only that it took me so long to pick it up. It’s one of those novels that remind you how elastic the form is – or can be, if you have the guts and the vision. Hers is loosely constructed around a series of interlocking vignettes featuring a literary Bluebeard, Mr. Fox, a writer who lures women into his stories, and Mary Foxe, his ally, adversary, and muse. The book opens up like a collection of Russian nesting dolls, each new treasure more intriguing than the last. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on everything else Oyeyemi has written.
Visit Aria Beth Sloss's website.

--Marshal Zeringue