Sunday, May 26, 2019

Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein's books include The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, winner of the 2014 Asian Pacific Association of Librarians Honor award for outstanding fiction, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai.

Her new novel is Wunderland.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Epstein's reply:
I currently have several books in bedside rotation (pretty standard practice for me):

The Unconsoled (Kazuo Ishiguro). A lyrical, dark, and subtly surreal novel about a famous pianist who comes to an unnamed Central European city to give the performance of his life, but instead finds himself being sent off on endless distractions and errands by the townspeople he encounters. I’ve loved other of Ishiguro’s novels—in particular, Never Let Me Go—and while this is a radically different and somewhat more challenging read for me (it’s a bit like being trapped in a very beautifully-rendered anxiety dream) I’m finding it both inspiring and compelling. It reminds me a little of Italo Calvino.

Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (Elena Ferrante). This is the third book in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet and I’m finding it just as compulsively readable as the first two. I love how the novels—particularly this one--are unapologetically feminine and intensely intimate, but also fiercely intellectual. Ferrante has a way of delving so deeply into the DNA of female friendship that it almost feels subversive; it is truly unlike anything I’ve read before.

Another Side of Paradise (Sally Koslow). As a huge fan of both F. Scott Fitzgerald and smart historical fiction I’m finding this a treat. It’s about Fitzgerald’s three-year affair with L.A. gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, who herself hid a very Gatsbyesque past (she grew up impoverished and Jewish in London) to become a glamorous Hollywood muckraker in the 1930’s. She also become Fitzgerald’s lover, muse and conscience at the very end of his life, a relationship this novel explores with both great sensitivity and laugh-aloud wit.

Villette (Charlotte Brontë). This is Brontë’s lesser-known Gothic masterpiece, about an orphaned young woman who makes her living teaching English at a second-tier boarding school for girls in Belgium. I originally picked this up for “work” reasons (I’m currently working on a novel that has some turn-of-the-century Gothic notes), but as is usually the case with the Brontës I’m finding myself truly drawn in by the wry humor, unselfconscious emotionality and deft descriptiveness of the voice. It’s one of those books that reminds me of what connects us all as storytellers—even across the centuries.
Visit Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

--Marshal Zeringue