Friday, February 12, 2016

Idra Novey

Idra Novey's new novel is Ways to Disappear.

From her Q & A with Francisco Goldman at Literary Hub:

FG: I’m curious what experiences with violence led you to this book. I grew up outside Boston and there was plenty of violence in that environment. Violence has been around me my whole life. But it was nothing like the violence I experienced when I moved to Guatemala for the first time in 1979. I had a lot of innocence, an American kind of innocence. That was the kind of violence that changed my life and I still struggle with how to express it as a writer. That tension is permanent.

IN: Me, too. I didn’t live in South America until I was 20 and came to it with a similar kind of naiveté. I grew up in Appalachia and most of my friends had cases full of guns in their basement. I knew people who’d gotten shot in hunting accidents and domestic violence was rampant but it wasn’t anything like the palpable, ever-present threat of violence one feels living in a city like Rio de Janeiro or Salvador, both of which, I just read, are among the 50 most violent cities in the world. I thought my reckless childhood in Appalachia had prepared me to deal with any kind of situation, but it just wasn’t true.

FG: And you get at that innocence so masterfully in this book. It’s so forgiving. Because it’s just the way people are—no better or worse. There’s no reason the protagonist should arrive in Brazil and be an expert on extortion and loan sharks. She just is who she is, though in her own way she’s actually an incredibly brave person. Her greatest act of bravery is to forgo every kind of conventional career choice and dedicate herself to translating an obscure Brazilian author. I bet nuns earn more money. I live next to a convent in Mexico City and the nuns have a stationery store. I bet their annual income is higher than that translator’s.

IN: Oh, I bet it’s higher! Everyone loves stationery.

As for describing people as they are, I just started reading Hilton Als’ White Girls. In it he says of Flannery O’Connor that her central strength as a writer was her ability to write with humor and without judgment about her crumbling social order, which was definitely my intention as well—to write about a particular kind of North American naiveté with a sense of humor, and without condemning it. To just...[read on]
Visit Idra Novey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue