Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the author of The Johnstown Girls, a novel about the famous Johnstown flood. She has also written seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh: A Measure of Blood, Simple, The Odds, which was nominated for the Edgar® Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Hideout, Afterimage, Fallen, and Taken. George is also the author of the short story collection The Man in the Buick and editor of another collection, Pittsburgh Noir. She is a professor of theater arts and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

George's new novel is The Blues Walked In.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I had surgery on January 16 and it was a big one that involved my spine top to bottom, so ... I read. I read a lot. I read at least 30 novels since then and have slowed down a little since I am now out and about. I read a good number of the much talked about current books like An American Marriage and Tangerine and I was appreciative of almost everything, but I will talk about the ones that still haunt me.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende caught me up in a redefinition of passionate love. The characters were interesting, ragged, unconventional and so was the secret love affair that lasted a lifetime. I was touched to think of such deep feeling. And the strength of secrecy.

Ali Smith’s Autumn (there is a theme here) amazed me with an unconventional young woman who never apologized for her passion for an idiosyncratic old man. In fact there is the feeling that they kept each other alive and that nobody could provide criticisms that could shake this relationship.

A quarter of the reading public complains that Amor Towles’ A Gentleman In Moscow isn’t dark enough, that nobody can believe such positivity and wit in a story of decades of house arrest amounting to imprisonment. But I believed it. I identified with it. And I am in the majority. To maintain wit, sensitivity, sensual pleasure, and kindness when one has no freedom is a triumph. I loved asking and asking, “When will this break down?” And being lifted again and again.

There is a character based on Philip Roth in Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. The narrative question was, “This can’t go on and on, can it? Isn’t it bad for this young woman, his love interest?” The affair went on and on and it was bad but also it wasn’t and it was and it wasn’t. The book is smart, so smart.

Also sticking with me is Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. She is known for The Paris Wife about Hemingway’s first wife and has told the story in her newest book about Marty Gellhorn, his third wife, in the first person. Marty and Ernest and Dos Passos are all convincing and the novel is full of history and information as well as a scalding portrait of a doomed love affair.

All I can say is thank God for books, the ones you can let go and the ones that haunt. They filled me.
Visit Kathleen George's website.

--Marshal Zeringue