Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was adapted into a film called The Other Woman starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have appeared on “All Things Considered” and “The California Report.”

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Waldman's reply:
I just reread Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, because my husband, Michael Chabon and I were invited to participate in a book club hosted by Tobias Wolff at Stanford. The idea behind the book club is genius – Wolff invites writers to talk about the books of other writers. We get so tired of the (solipsistic) exercise of pontificating about our own work. It's a real pleasure to talk about the work of another, and to remember that it's because we love reading that we're in this business to begin with.

The Ghost Writer is among my favorite of Roth's novels (the other is Operation Shylock) though his memoir Patrimony is the one of his books that I most enjoy rereading, especially now that my parents are older). It's in this novel that the things about Roth that I love are most evident, and the elements that make me uncomfortable (while present) are less on display. The sentences, from the very first page, just sing. (And I mean that literally. There's a rhythm to his words that feels like it worms its way into your limbic system the way a great melody does). The characters are complicated and stripped bare. And the whole concept – the great Fuck You to the Jewish establishment of marrying Anne Frank (try berating him for insufficient Jewish fealty with her on his arm!) – is stupendously satisfying.

Yes, we have a novel in which a young lovely girl flings herself at the feet (or cock) of an unattractive older man (would it be Roth without that?), but it seems more understandable and sympathetic in this instance (after all she's been through (or not), and because of how desperately she misses her father (or doesn't.)).

To top it all off is the great comfort of rereading. There's so little risk when you pick up a book that you know is great. You can lie back, assured that the chances of disappointment are at least reduced.
Learn more about the author and her work at Ayelet Waldman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue