Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dara Horn

Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, was chosen one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" in 2007, and is the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

Horn's latest novel is A Guide for the Perplexed.

From her Q & A with Rachel Gordan at Religion & Politics:

R&P: I have always thought that you write novels the way a historian would like to write fiction: historical events are made relevant to contemporary issues via a thrilling narrative. Why is history such a rich source for you, as a novelist?

DH: I do seem to spiral into these historical moments. This is my fourth novel, and when I began it, my intent was to write a completely contemporary book. When I was on tour for my last novel, about Jewish spies during the Civil War, I had people coming to my readings in costumes, with muskets. It was a little too much historical saturation for my taste, so I hoped to write something as contemporary as possible: the main character is a software developer! But when I saw that the program she created was precisely about recording everything—about the distinction between memory and history—I saw that I needed to test that distinction against something more significant than a fictional character’s childhood. So I went back to the original genizah at that point, and then back into Maimonides’ life. But your question is really about why I’m drawn to writing about the past at all.

The snarky answer, of course, is that historical fiction is always about the time when it’s being written, not the time when it supposedly takes place, because there has to be a reason why the writer is drawn to that particular time and the questions it raises. (The same is true of historians!) But the sincere answer is that I feel that the sense of shallowness that pervades much of American life is due to the fundamental American cultural premise that having a past is optional, that each of us is a self-made person with no antecedents that matter, that one can build a Wal-Mart on an Indian burial ground and call it progress. There is a genuine importance in that national priority of forgetting and the room it leaves for opportunity and invention. But it runs so counter to [what is at] the heart of...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Dara Horn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The World to Come.

The Page 99 Test: All Other Nights.

The Page 69 Test: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Writers Read: Dara Horn.

--Marshal Zeringue