Saturday, March 1, 2008

Elisa Albert

In summer 2006 Jonathan Segura interviewed Elisa Albert for Publishers Weekly. Albert was then the author of a debut story collection, How This Night Is Different. Her new novel The Book of Dahlia will be released in March 2008.

The opening exchanges of the interview:

You're Jewish. You're a fiction writer. Do you write Jewish fiction?

Well, I'm Jewish. I'm a writer, and the stories in this collection all revolve around Jewish life-cycle events, so even if I wanted to do battle with that Jewish-fiction-writer label — which I don't — my case is weak. But it's somewhat reductive, so lots of subtle but really important distinctions get lost under that umbrella. You could just as well call my stories "child-of-divorce fiction" or "thwarted-desire fiction" or "marijuana-aficionado fiction," too. But you're still not any closer to a real interaction with the lives chronicled therein, you know. Can't catch the wind, man. Incidentally, I prefer the term "shtetl-ized."

Your characters are skeptical and dismissive of the Jewish identities they cling to.

Gravitational pull, brainwashing, the desire to go home again, who knows. I was raised in a very insular and infuriating Jewish community, and one that proved endlessly dissatisfying to me as I grew up, but it's impossible for me to shake its influence. There's the desire to reclaim it somehow, make it my own and reinvent it in a way that's meaningful. There's a good deal of sentimentalism inherent in that urge, and one I think I share with the population of my stories.
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue