Saturday, October 5, 2019

Eileen Pollack

Eileen Pollack graduated with a BS in physics from Yale and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa. She is the author of the novels The Bible of Dirty Jokes, A Perfect Life, Breaking and Entering, and Paradise, New York, the short-story collections In the Mouth and The Rabbi in the Attic, and the nonfiction books The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club and Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull.

Pollack's new novel is The Professor of Immortality.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Professor of Immortality, and for your character Professor Maxine Sayers?

A: I had just moved to Ann Arbor to teach in 1994, and the Unabomber manifesto [written by Ted Kaczynski] came out in The Washington Post. Not long after, David Kaczynski and his wife went to the FBI—they recognized some of the language and the ideas. It was hard for David to turn his brother in.

The University of Michigan realized [Ted Kaczynski] got his Ph.D. in math from Michigan. If you’re a graduate student at Michigan, you have to take a course outside your area of study.

As someone teaching writing [as I did], you got to know your students well. I have had many students who were young men, were bright—and were angry. I’d always taken them as my special projects. I have a physics degree from Yale; I have an older brother who could be a handful. I’d always try to connect with them. Often, I broke through and we became close. I thought many of them were in a lot of pain.

I was interested in Kaczynski. The more I read about him, the more I began to feel for him. If I’d read the manifesto and recognized the words of a former student, would I have turned him in? I’m interested in radical action, in what shaped him.

So I had a figure of a professor who starts to suspect a former student she cares about. I was interested in...[read on]
Visit Eileen Pollack's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Perfect Life.

The Page 69 Test: The Professor of Immortality.

--Marshal Zeringue