Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award. A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai.

Her debut novel is America for Beginners.

Recently I asked Franqui about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now, I’m reading a novel called The Essex Serpent, which is not really in my normal style of things I love, but I am totally in love with it. It’s about a widow who is thrilled about her widowhood in late Victorian England, who hears about this mysterious animal, a serpent, terrorizing a small fishing village in Sussex, and so she takes her little household with her to investigate. Once there, she meets a preacher who she recognizes as, on some level, her soul’s true companion, and what follows is a fascinating study in love, in all its forms, and belief, in all its madness.

I think what I really like about this novel is the way it is both lush and spare in its description. The pieces of people that it gives its reader are so rich and complete but contained, and while I wanted more, I always want more, I also understood these people in a way that felt so fundamental. When thinking about her painful marriage, Cora, the widow, talks about how her husband told her about a form of Japanese pottery in which you break the piece, and then weld it back together in gold, and that’s what he wants to do to her, and you know, from that alone, what kind of person he was, what kind of hell their marriage was. The deftness which which the writer picks out the details that give you a whole world underneath, that’s a kind of restraint that I envy.

A lot of people talked about this book saying that it really sounds like it was written in another age but I honestly think it’s one of the most modern things I’ve read because it looks at history through this like, modern cheesecloth, straining out certain things, showing us the things that make sense to us and upset us here and now. It’s moving through all these lenses of time and commentary and it challenges so many of the ideas we have about Victorian life as this thing divorced from earthiness, from wildness, and from folklore and superstition. It’s a novel with mystery, and even menace, but it’s so rich in humanity and the workings of the human mind as well. There is something intoxicating about it, and I love it.
Visit Leah Franqui's website.

--Marshal Zeringue