Saturday, April 27, 2019

Claire Needell

Claire Needell is the author of The First True Thing and The Word for Yes and is a contributor to the New York Times and a former middle school teacher.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Needell's reply:
About a month ago, I found myself telling everyone in my writers’ group to read Iris Murdoch. I hadn’t actually read Murdoch in years, but in my late twenties I read pretty much everything she wrote. Her books stuck in my mind as novels that have a bit of Everything—interesting historical detail, incisive philosophical ponderings, viciously motivated narcissists. Sex, suspense, flawless pacing and a sense of the absurd. This is the impossible mix that is an Iris Murdoch novel.

Having heard myself say this over and over again for weeks (and noting the nodding tolerance of my audience), I decided to go back to an early Murdoch novel The Flight from the Enchanter, a lovely edition of which I happened to have in my living room for show (It has a colorful 1971 dust jacket, but is a worthless library edition that I must have bought somewhere in London in the nineties). I found, however, that every time I opened the book I felt itchy and started to sneeze, so I had to buy the novel on Amazon after a couple of chapters.

And she is Everything! There’s a vaguely feminist character carrying on a love affair with a pair of Polish brothers! A suffragette coup of a stodgy board meeting, a villain who’s villainy involves the usurpation of a political/literary journal—the importance of which is unknown to all involved! Characters are followed through back alleys into underground labyrinths in which people...develop blackmail photos, and threaten adversaries with toxic chemicals. And all of it is breathless, except for when it’s profound.

So, that’s what I’m reading. A bit of sorcery from a master.
Visit Claire Needell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue