Friday, April 15, 2011

Leslie Daniels

From Ron Hogan's Q & A with Leslie Daniels about her novel, Cleaning Nabokov's House:

Cleaning Nabokov’s House mixes uproarious humor with the poignant heartbreak of a mother fighting for her children. How did you handle this balance between laughter and tears?

I don’t think that laughter and tears are about balance. Life can break your heart and be hilarious at the same time. If you were a psychotherapist, you might say that humor is my defensive strategy. If you were a nice psychotherapist, you might say that it is part of my adaptive coping strength. I was lucky to have an extremely funny father. We had a great time joking and bantering. After he was gone, I found myself writing toward the place from where he used to answer, a kind of calling out. It struck me then that humor is a kind of duty: If you can be funny you should, because life can be so deadly earnest. The opposite of humor is boredom, not sadness. Laughter and tears dance the tango.

Like your character Barb, you also live in Vladimir Nabokov’s house – though without finding a long-lost manuscript! What is it like to live in Nabokov’s house? How did the house inspire you?

Moving into the house, I thought a lot about what it meant to be there. I still do. What intrigued me was the fact of an absolute genius having lived in this same simple space same wide views and unfussy geometry juxtaposed with the fact that no trace of him existed. I looked for Nabokov in that house. I can find evidence of the architect, the original owner, but Nabokov exists only in the copies of his books on my shelves.

Since you’ve worked with writers as well as being a writer, how much of your industry savvy went into creating the character, Margie, who convinces Barb to become a writer? Do you give similar advice to Margie’s when you encourage fellow writers?

When I work with writers...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue