Monday, January 28, 2008

Eli Gottlieb

Eli Gottlieb's The Boy Who Went Away won the prestigious Rome Prize, the 1998 McKitterick Prize from the British Society of Authors, and was a New York Times Notable book. His new novel is Now You See Him.'s Kate Ayers interviewed Gottlieb about the new book. Their opening exchanges: NOW YOU SEE HIM is a brilliant, sad and funny book. What was the inspiration for it?

Eli Gottlieb: They say that writers write the kind of books they'd like to read. In part I suppose I simply wanted to fill a gap in my own reading list. As to the origins of the book, it began with an image of two writers meeting at one of those art colonies of which America is so full. These places, in addition to being great for getting work done, are also hotbeds of erotic intrigue, filled with gossip, bitchery and exploding marriages. I brought the soaring star male writer and the coolly ambitious but unknown female writer together in one of these colonies, and watched what happened. I had been living abroad in Italy for several years, and I think my perceptions were energized by the fact of returning home. Everything, to the returning exile, seems fresh and new, and I tried to wire some of that energy into the novel.

BRC: Your character descriptions are so uniquely realistic. Do you observe people with an extraordinarily keen eye, gleaning quirks and traits from a compendium of different encounters, or do you just have a knack for building characters from scratch?

EG: I guess having been a self-conscious kid has its uses! All of the classical writers I've loved were in one way or another masters of observation, and I've tried to live up to their example. As for the construction of character, I tend to use a seed of reality based on someone I know or have observed, and then layer the personage outwards from there. For me, the novel as a literary form is mainly about character.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Now You See Him.

Read an excerpt from Now You See Him, and learn more about the book and author at Eli Gottlieb's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue