Sunday, August 19, 2018

Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber grew up in New York City and has lived in rural Connecticut since 1976, when she married the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber. (They have two daughters and a grandson.) She spends parts of the year in West Cork, Ireland, and in London. She also spends spring semesters at Kenyon College in Ohio, where she is in her seventh year as the Visiting Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. Weber is the author of the new novel Still Life With Monkey and five previous novels, as well as a memoir.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Weber's reply:
I am very excited to be reading the opening chapter of R.O. Kwon’s debut novel The Incendiaries. The New York Times calls her writing radiant, and almost every review I have seen—and the book has had tremendous attention (including a lengthy appraisal in The New Yorker) even before publication day—uses the word “dark.” I am confident that this will be an extraordinary and important novel. I have been looking forward to this occasion for a very long time. Reese (as she was then known) was a student of mine more than fifteen years ago, when I taught creative writing at Yale, where she got her undergraduate degree in economics, and she will be visiting Kenyon College in November. I know my students will be dazzled.

At this moment, the book I have read most recently and also most frequently is Caps For Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, the new favorite of my three-year-old grandson Wilder. I loved this book, which was first published in 1938, in my own childhood, I read it to my daughters when they were little, and now I am delighted to find that it still holds up, even on the on the tenth consecutive reading. There is something very satisfying in the shape and rhythm of the story about a peddler whose caps are stolen by monkeys when he falls asleep under their tree. (Is it a happy coincidence that my new novel has a naughty monkey at the heart of the story, or is this book the origin of my monkey interest?)

Over the next few weeks I will be re-reading The Aspern Papers and Other Tales by Henry James, and Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton, in preparation for the new advanced fiction writing seminar I will be teaching this semester: Writing Short Stories in the Company of Henry James and Edith Wharton. Reading as writers is an essential part of any creative writing workshop, and I am hopeful that my students, even as they write their own inevitably contemporary stories, will benefit from the close investigations of these stories that we will undertake from week to week, making their own discoveries about voice and pace and language in the work of those two masters of situation and interiority.

And I am saving Anne Tyler’s newest novel, Clock Dance, for my flight to Ireland in a few days. I thought her previous novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was one of her very best, and if this novel falls short of that, I am confident I will nevertheless find much to admire. Anne Tyler on a slow day writes rings around most other living novelists at their best.
Visit Katharine Weber's website.

The Page 99 Test: Triangle.

The Page 69 Test: True Confections.

The Page 99 Test: The Memory of All That.

--Marshal Zeringue