Monday, January 24, 2011

Robb Forman Dew

Robb Forman Dew's latest novel is Being Polite to Hitler.

From her Q & A with writer Caroline Leavitt:

[Leavitt:]I love all the history threaded through the narrative. What was the research like for you, and given the historically rich periods the novel covers, how did you decide what to use and what to discard, particularly as the events impact the characters?

Don't you think that we are entitled to the memories of, say, our grandparents? If we live in a household that is saturated with the stories told by the people we live with, then those stories, filtered through their telling, and also filtered by our affection or dislike of the story-teller...Well, it's absurd to imagine that those stories aren't possessed by us as memories, too. I was about six years old when my parents and Red Warren and Cal Lowell--probably Peter and Eleanor Taylor, Alan Tate--I can't remember exactly who was there--but they and my parents and my uncle got into what turned into a spirited discussion in which eventually they settled on the fact that if a person preferred Benny Goodman to Artie Shaw, then it was inevitably the fact that that person would prefer Tolstoi over Dostoevsky. And vice versa: If you liked Artie Shaw then by rights you must prefer Dostoevsky over Tolstoi. I wasn't old enough to understand what was being debated, except that it was being debated with deeply earnest intensity. I was an argument that was never resolved in my extended family, and it was a moment that I claim as a memory of my own.

I loved doing the research for the first book, because the book was dependent on my perceptions of that era. I became fascinated--oddly enough--with the huge Corliss engines eventually built by Scofields and Sons, a company, of course, which was invented. In fact, I spoke to a wonderful woman in Dayton, Ohio, at The National Cash Register Company which houses the last extant Corliss engine, and she went down to the works and held her phone out so that I could record what it sounded like. I was astounded at the sound--a sort of smooth, muscular, loud--but purposeful--noise. I drove my friends crazy insisting that they listen to it over and over.

As it turned out, though, I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue