Sunday, February 9, 2020

Jennifer Longo

Jennifer Longo was a ballerina from ages eight to eighteen, until she eventually (reluctantly) admitted her talent for writing exceeded her talent for dance. The author of Up to This Pointe and Six Feet Over It, she holds an MFA in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University, where her obsessive love of Antarctica produced her thesis play about Antarctica’s Age of Exploration.

Longo's new novel is What I Carry.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading (for the third time) the most intricate, gorgeous and dense (that’s why the third pass, the footnotes and character descriptions are ridiculous and amazing) examination of the Salem Witch trials. The Witches by Stacy Schiff. She is a Pulitzer-prize winning biographer who has also written about Cleopatra and Vera Nabokov (among others) It’s a delicious and heartbreaking story told with prose that feels dark, and cold and mysterious and terrifying. The suffocating months surrounding the short-lived trials are given rich political, religious, and social context. The cast of characters is unnerving, and her use of language makes me so envious. This remarkable passage is one of my favorites: “As their skirts were bound around their ankles, as hoods were lowered over their eyes, all five women insisted on their innocence… the moment she blindly climbed the ladder, Noyes reminded Sarah Good that she had engaged in great wickedness. She was a witch; it was high time she admitted it. Under the gallows from which she was to hang, she shot back, “You are a liar. I am no more witch that you are a wizard and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.” Then the footnote tells us that Nathaniel Hawthorne (relative of a trial judge) later took that line, stole it from this woman wrongly hanged for witchcraft, a woman whose five-year-old daughter was also accused, this woman who lost the baby she was nursing on a dark, cold prison floor for months and who still had the bravery to tell Noyes off the moment she was murdered before an audience of her neighbors – Hawthorn took Sarah Good’s words and gave them to a man in his House of the Seven Gables. I mean, Stacy Schiff – she tells it like it is, and does it with fire. The narrative is so well-crafted my hands get all tingly and sweaty and I read some passages again and again just for their beauty. I love this book So. Much.
Visit Jennifer Longo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue