Friday, July 8, 2011

Rebecca Wolff

Rebecca Wolff is an award-winning poet and founding editor of Fence and Fence Books. She received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is the author of three books of poems; her work has appeared in The Nation, The Paris Review, and A Public Space.

From a Q & A about her new novel, The Beginners, with Barbara Chai for the Wall Street Journal:

What was the seed for this novel?

The very most original seed was a drive I once took through central Massachusetts, around the Quabbin Reservoir, on my way from Amherst to Boston. Some of my ancestors had moved to that area from Salem (now called Danvers) after their matriarch, Rebecca Nurse, had been hung in the witch trials in 1693. So I was driving around looking for graveyards, and when I found one I would look for headstones with the family name (I found a few). I was also driving through towns, small, isolated towns that to my eyes (those of a New Yorker) appeared inexplicable: Who in the world could be from here, and of what might their lives consist. This was an outsider’s awe of the inside, but eventually these turns of mind reversed and I wondered: Why, or how, on earth could anyone ever choose to move here? And at that point I began devising a story.

Your descriptions of the town of Wick are at once literal and fantastical. Did you borrow details from any of the actual towns involved in the Salem witch trials?

Wick is quite closely based on several small villages, even hamlets, that are nestled along the east side of the Quabbin Reservoir. I amalgamated them into one town, and borrowed the entirely factual story of how next to them there had used to be a very active valley full of towns and villages before they were evacuated, razed, and flooded to create a reservoir that still supplies the water for Boston. So these towns, and the fictional town of Wick, were left behind on high ground, and therefore acquired...[read on]
Visit Rebecca Wolff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue