Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cara Hoffman

Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author of the Alex Cooper crime novels—whose 2011 entry in the series is Silent Mercy—was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Here is an excerpt from her interview of Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty, a novel that centers on the disappearance of a young woman from a rural New York community:

Fairstein: As I read So Much Pretty, which is a stunning debut novel, I was reminded of The Lovely Bones. What do you think it is about our society that is so fascinated by the victimization of young women?

Hoffman: I think we are fascinated by the victimization of women, especially young women, because that kind of violence is revelatory of who we are; it’s common and all-pervasive but treated as though it is very rare and shocking. The fascination lies in the sense that a known secret is being revealed and that denial is being shattered by physical evidence, which is always frightening and exhilarating and titillating to people. I also think that there is a fascination with the victimization of women because some people obviously take pleasure in it. There’s an undeniably misogynistic core to our society—its days are numbered for sure—but it’s still there, and one of the ways it flexes, especially as it gets weaker, is to focus on images of women as naked, vulnerable, afraid and dead.

Fairstein: In So Much Pretty, you make the point that we should "pay attention to the obvious." As a prosecutor, I saw hundreds of cases where women were assaulted or killed by men they knew. How did you go about writing a novel in which the whodunit aspect is actually less integral than the why?

Hoffman: As a journalist I’ve always felt "why" was the question that mattered the most, that made clear all the extenuating circumstances and unearthed the subtext of the story. Knowing that a crime has been committed doesn’t get you anywhere. Knowing WHY might. And for that we have to focus on many details about the perpetrators and where they came from, what made them who they are. Those details were very much on my mind when I was writing So Much Pretty.

Fairstein: You have also said that we are "inundated by violence and it becomes something that drives our aesthetics." Can you give readers some insight as to how you balance the task of writing about this subject with the feeling that it is perhaps too widely accepted as an "entertainment" trope in books, movies and television?

Cara Hoffman: This is a...[read on]
Read more about So Much Pretty at Cara Hoffman's website and blog.

Writers Read: Cara Hoffman.

--Marshal Zeringue