Claire Messud's new novel is The Woman Upstairs.
From the author's Q & A with Annasue McCleave Wilson for Publishers Weekly:
Your characters struggle to figure out who they are in the face of their families and events over which they have no control. What are we to make of Nora Eldridge, the betrayed middle-aged woman of your new novel? Because she is angry, really angry.--Marshal Zeringue
As a writer, I subscribe to Chekhov’s world view: “It’s not my job to tell you that horse thieves are bad people. It’s my job to tell you what this horse thief is like.” The more accurately one can illuminate a particular human experience, the better the work of art. I’m not an autobiographical, or biographical, writer, except in some abstract sense. If I had to summarize, most broadly, my concerns as a writer, I’d say the question “how then must we live?” is at the heart of it, for me. It can only be addressed in the individual, not in the general; each of us on this planet must come to terms with this question for him or herself.
As a reader, I’ve long felt passionately about fictions that articulate anger, frustration, disappointment—from reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, in high school, when I thought, “my God, fiction can do this? Fiction can say these unsayable things?” to reading Beckett or Camus or Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater to Thomas Bernhard—these are all articulating unseemly, unacceptable experiences and emotions, rage prominent among them. Because rage at life and rage for life are very closely linked. To be angry, you have to give a shit.
Anyway, these books I love, they’re all books by men—every last one of them. Because if it’s unseemly and possibly dangerous for a man to be angry, it’s totally...[read on]