Sunday, September 3, 2017

Molly Patterson

Molly Patterson was born in St. Louis and lived in China for several years. Her work has appeared in several magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Iowa Review. She was the 2012-2013 Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize.

Patterson's debut novel is Rebellion.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve got four-month old twins at home, so my reading time these days is significantly less than it used to be. It takes me quite a while to get through any book, which changes my relationship to it—how different it is to consume a book over the course of a few weeks, rather than in a day or two. Less reading time also means I have little patience for a book that doesn’t compel me from the start. The following books have all passed that test.

Right now, I’m reading White Tears, by Hari Kunzru. It’s a dreamy novel that turns into a nightmare, as the line between different realities grows increasingly blurred. From a writer’s perspective, I’m interested in the kind of research Kunzru had to do (the book is centered on the world of music collectors and producers), and as a new mother operating on less sleep than I used to, I find the magical feeling of the novel to be just about right.

I’ve also been thinking about it in relation to A Separation, another novel I read recently. That one is by Katie Kitamura, who’s married to Kunzru. I’m a writer who’s married to another writer, so I imagine that Kunzru and Kitamura read each other’s drafts, and perhaps helped each other through difficulties they encountered while writing. Does that show in the writing? I’m not sure. A Separation is a spare book that’s almost relentlessly “un-magical”— the narrator is curiously pragmatic in the face of a mysterious tragedy that upends her life. That central mystery, alongside the stripped-down prose, pulled me through this short novel really quickly.

One book that took me quite a long time to finish—but which I enjoyed immensely—was James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, the biography of a completely riveting figure about whom I’d known nothing before. The author of the biography, Julie Phillips, is an excellent writer working with a fascinating subject. Tiptree was a science fiction writer of the mid-twentieth century, a male pseudonym for a female writer, who kept up a correspondence with many other writers and editors, and fooled them all with respect to his/her gender. But that’s really only part of the story. Sheldon lived a strange and singular life from start to finish, and I found myself enthralled by every part of it.

On the lighter side, I recently read Death Comes to Pemberley. I’m an ardent fan of P.D. James and have read most of her Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. This novel, her last, struck out on a very different path, taking the beloved and familiar cast of characters from Pride and Prejudice, and plopping them down in a mystery. In addition to the genre aspect, I was really taken by the writing: James mimics Austen’s style of prose with aplomb. If you’re an Austen fanatic, as I am, this is a real feat to admire.

On my list of books to read soon, I’ve got Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger and E.F. Benson’s novel Mapp and Lucia. And I’ll probably read some more P.D. James as well.
Visit Molly Patterson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rebellion.

--Marshal Zeringue