Friday, September 22, 2006
When Janet Fitch's first novel,White Oleander,became an Oprah Book Club selection,it was a boon to readers everywhere. White Oleander's tale of a young girl
thrown to the not-so-tender mercies of the foster care system after her poet mother is imprisoned for poisoning an ex-lover,made for some riveting reading. The film adaptation was just as brilliant and starred Michelle Pffeifer,Renee Zellweger and Alison Lohman.
Fitch's latest book,Paint It Black,also has two women in turmoil-Josie,an art school model and Meredith,a wealthy classic pianist who are both in mourning after the man they both love commits suicide. Fitch has also written a Young Adult novel called Kicks,which came out in 1996. She currently teaches fiction at USC's Masters of Professional Writing Program. I was most fortunate and pleased to be given the chance to ask her a few questions about her writing and what she loves about reading:
1)Your new novel,Paint It Black,takes place during the punk rock scene of the 1980's-was that background part of your personal experience?
Not to the degree Josie experienced it-- but I certainly went to the clubs and kind of had my formative period as an artist during that time. My own artistic struggle and the temper of the times seemed to go together.
2)Is the title of your new book meant to be a tribute to the Stones
song or just a coincidence?
It was neither a tribute or a coincidence, but an affinity for the tone of the song as a great expression of a certain kind of grief, that's not all picturesque and mournful, that grief can be pissed off and nihilistic too--which so perfectly captures Josie's mood after her boyfriend kills himself.
3)White Oleander was a popular reading group selection. What titles would you recommend for a good book club discussion?
Great question. I'd look at The Memory Room by Mary Rakow, and Our Ecstatic Days by Steve Erickson. I've heard the new Mark Danielewski,Only Revolutions, is amazing. I'd always recommend the Alexandria Quartet by Laurence Durrell, and Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin.
Fabulous short books are The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon and
Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov. And Blonde by Joyce Carol
Oates--the Marilyn Monroe story. What a fabulous book.
4)Were you satisfied with the film adaptation of White Oleander?
Yes... Sure, there were things here and there that I might have done
differently, but on the other hand, I didn't have to make it into a
film! I thought they did an awfully good job of turning a messy 400
page novel into a film that worked in its own right.
5)Early in your career,you wrote a Young Adult novel. Was it easy or hard to switch over to writing for adults?
I had always written for adults. tons of short stories. But I had a story my agent felt would make a good YA book, so I went ahead and wrote it. I learned a huge amount from working on Kicks and like it a lot,but YA was never my aim. I guess I didn't have YA when I was growing up, I went straight from the Black Stallion to Crime and Punishment.
6)Poetry parts a strong part in your work-who are some of your
I love poetry. I like poets with a strong musicality, and love listening to poets read their own stuff on tape. Several of my favorites are in Paint It Black--TS Eliot, Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Blaise Cendrars... I like Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband, and DA Powell, I'm a Joseph Brodsky FREAK. Love Akhmatova and Bella Akhmudulina, the 20s imagist H.D. And Howard Nemerov, who was Diane Arbus's brother. I like James Merrill when I'm up at 3 in the
morning and can't sleep, when the house is very very quiet. LIke
Cavafy, the Alexandrian, and Rumi, the Sufi. I like Sandburg and ee
cummings and Whitman... "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed"
always makes me cry.
7) You studied Russian history in college,have you ever considered writing a historical novel?
Stay tuned, it's next.
My thanks to Janet for giving me and other fans her time-if you want to know more about her new book or catch her on tour,please click the title link above. When you get a writer as good as this,you definately want to stay tuned for her next great story and encourage all of your good friends to do the same.
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