Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Anna Godbersen

Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe and Bright Young Things. She grew up in Berkeley, California, graduated from Barnard College, and lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Godbersen's reply:
One of the screwy things about book promotion is that by the time your novel comes out, the intensity of the writing -- which once seemed like the only worthwhile use of your days, and so vivid that the characters came with you to dreamland -- has sort of waned, and it feels difficult to explain the ideas that had you by the throat a year or more ago. Ashenden was among the spy fiction that I collected when I was writing the first draft of The Blonde (I was keeping myself on a pretty strict John le Carré, Graham Greene, and Ian Fleming diet in those days), but didn't get around to. I love The Razor's Edge, and Ashenden, the protagonist of these linked stories, is a literary man who, like Maugham himself, begins working for British Intelligence. This seemed like a good thing to read now, to sort of get myself into the right headspace for explaining why I felt compelled to write a spy novel starring Marilyn Monroe.

I always like to have some fiction and nonfiction going at the same time, and right now White Girls fills the latter category. I'm reading it slowly because I don't want it to end -- I read a little bit every night right before I go to bed. Hilton Als' writing feels like the perfect late night interlocutor, the genius friend you call after a dud date from the bathtub to talk about everything and nothing, dissect the culture, gab about what fascinates you, and not feel so alone.

I have always been a sucker for manly man writers -- the riff on 'now' late in For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of my favorite passages in all literature, and I have yet to find a Jim Harrison sentence I don't like -- and at some point I realized it was really important to always have a female novelist on my nightstand. That makes it sound like work, but it's the opposite; to be in the hands of a forceful woman storyteller is a relief and a homecoming. Right now that's Elena Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment. She writes female consciousness, about women's lives, as fearlessly as anybody.

And when Gabriel García Márquez died, I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera, which I've been meaning to revisit for years. Much of it I remember in detail, but it means something different to me now that I'm older. I've been reading this one slowly, too -- those sentences and images are worth sitting with for a stretch.

© 2014 Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde
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Writers Read: Anna Godbersen.

--Marshal Zeringue