Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Susan Isaacs

Susan Isaacs' new novel is As Husbands Go.

From her 2004 Q & A at Barnes & Noble:

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?

For a couple of months during college, I was wowed by H. L. Mencken's book of essays, Prejudices. Its influence was both positive and negative. I loved the author's iconoclastic instincts, his razzle-dazzle language, and his contemptuous take on the assorted idiocies of American politics and culture. My infatuation could not last longer than a couple of months because of Mencken's off-the-cuff racist and anti-Semitic asides: How could anyone that smart be that stupid?

In any case, while in Mencken mode, I wrote an essay for the college newspaper defending the fraternity/sorority system. (Fortunately, I can find no trace of this piece and thus can avoid confronting my younger, dopier, and more arrogant self.) The response was, to me, astounding. More pats on the back then I could count and, on the other hand, a stunning number of outraged letters to the editor protesting what I had written. A grand fuss, but it brought me little pleasure. True, I loved the attention, but it didn't take me long to realize both the applause and the fuming was not for me, but rather, for my competent imitation of H. L. Mencken.

A little more than a decade later, when I began writing my first novel, I started to realize that all I had as a writer was my own voice. Sure, I could imitate Mencken or, for that matter, Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde. But that was just a clever college-kid trick. Mencken and Austen and Wilde were far better Menckens and Austens and Wildes than I could ever be. Besides, why would any reader bother with an imitation when they could read the real thing? All I could be, for better or worse, was Susan Isaacs.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue