Thursday, September 11, 2008

Curtis Sittenfeld

Jessica Grose of interviewed Curtis Sittenfeld about a number of topics, including American Wife, Sittenfeld's third novel, which features a narrator closely modeled on Laura Bush. Part of the Q & A:

What attracted you to Laura as a fictional construct in the first place? In the Times you've declared your love for her and I've read the Salon essay in which you first mention your admiration for her. You call her "a mastermind of stealth independence."

Basically I read these various articles about her, and realized that she was more complicated than I would have imagined. She and George Bush got married at the age of 31, and she was a democrat until she married him. She actually has some very liberal close friends, including a woman who’s a midwife in Berkeley. I think a lot of people, most people, are primarily friends with people who are of the same political persuasion as you are. I think it’s notable to be First Lady to a super conservative President and friends with midwife. She would invite people over when she was First Lady of Texas and when she was at the White House. Because she was such a great reader, she would invite writers to events, and they would have been on record as disagreeing with her husband. They just assumed that Laura had never read their books, but then they would show up and have realized she had read everything they'd ever written.

I’ve read all of your novels, and while Lee (from
Prep) and Hannah (from The Man of My Dreams) are more cynical, all three heroines are quite shy and introverted. It seems like these sorts of introverted characters are not usually protagonists. What makes you gravitate towards them?

Well I think that the all the protagonists of my books are observant, because I can’t really imagine writing a novel that didn’t have an observant protagonist. What would be the point? I also think that I’m interested in social awkwardness, because it seems to illustrate or magnify these aspects of human behavior. So I would say that’s a lot of it: the things that interest me as a person.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue