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Beatrice



introducing readers to writers since 1995



Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:31:26 +0000

 



Life Stories #98: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:31:26 +0000

When Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich was in law school, she did a summer internship at a Louisiana law firm. She was firmly against the death penalty, and then they asked if she would be prepared to work on the case of convicted child murderer Ricky Langley. Attempting to familiarize herself with the case, she was overwhelmed by memories of being molested by her grandfather—and though her career as a lawyer was pretty much over before it had even begun, her future as a writer was just beginning.

In The Fact of a Body, Marzano-Lesnevich writes about her efforts not just to confront what had happened to her and her sister, and how her family had suppressed it, but also to understand Rickey Langley—not to sympathize with him, as we discuss in this interview, but to understand what drove him to commit his crimes... and how his attempts to seek help before then had gone unanswered.

During our conversation, she also described one of the long-term effects of her grandfather's molestation, how even as an adult her body would sometimes "freeze up" in a dissociative state—and how, since the writing of this memoir, that had stopped. It led us to discuss the clich&@33; about memoir writing, which is that it's supposed to be cathartic, a notion she vigorously challenged. We also talked a lot about the true crime genre, from the reasons writers choose to write about certain crimes to the creative effort that goes into developing a narrative rooted in the bare facts of a case.


Media Files:
http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesAlexandriaMarzanoLesnevich.mp3




Life Stories #97: Andrew Forsthoefel

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:11:45 +0000

As I was talking with Andrew Forsthoefel in the spring of 2017 about his 4,000-mile walk across the United States, which he writes about in Walking to Listen, I asked a kidding-but-not-kidding question: "So, what were you walking away from?" Because you don't set off on foot to talk to random strangers unless there's something you don't want to deal with at home—but, as Andrew explains, the journey actually forced him to confront everything he'd been dealing with since his parents' divorce a few years earlier. And while he did talk to people that he met along the way, I realized that for the vast majority of his journey, he was out there alone with his own thoughts; as I told him, he could just as easily have gone up to the top of a mountain to meditate, but instead he chose to put one foot in front of the other.

Listening to this conversation again a few months later, I was struck by Andrew's thoughtful determination to really listen to others—to meet them with the full force of his empathy, even when (as we discuss) what they're telling him is rooted in prejudice and hate. In a political climate where pundits make a lot of noise about "listening" to "forgotten" Americans, Andrew's story offers a model for genuine conversation.


Media Files:
http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesAndrewForsthoefel.mp3




Life Stories #96: James Rhodes

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 06:14:36 +0000

In the early months of 2017, I met the British concert pianist James Rhodes, who had come to the United States to discuss Instrumental, "a memoir of madness, medication, and music" as the subtitle puts it. Rhodes has a fascinating personal story: He'd played the piano some in his adolescence, then gave it up for a career in financial publishing. When he was twenty-eight, he decided that if he couldn't be a musician, he'd be an agent for musicians, and reached out to one of the best agents around, who agreed to take him on as an apprentice. But then they met, and the agent, having asked Rhodes about his interest in music then inviting him to play his own piano, realized that Rhodes was meant to be a musician. And so he went into training—but, in upending his entire life like this, Rhodes was forced to confront his memories of being repeatedly raped by one of his teachers as a child:

Instrumental is a powerful memoir of surviving sexual trauma and coping with mental illness, but it's also a work of fierce advocacy for the power of music—Rhodes hates the term "classical music"—to make a difference in our lives. And so our frank and uncensored conversation takes on everything from what's wrong with today's classical music scene to the consequences of living in a society that makes an admitted serial sexual assaulter its political leader to the legal battle that threatened to keep this book from ever getting published.


Media Files:
http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesJamesRhodes.mp3




Life Stories #95: Lauren Collins

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:17:22 +0000

Back in 2016, I had a fantastic conversation with Lauren Collins, a staff writer with The New Yorker who had just published When in French: Love in a Second Language, which is simultaneously a personal story about how Collins fell in love with a French man without really knowing the language—he spoke perfect English, sure, but there was still a significant aspect of his life, his personality, his identity that was closed off to her until she could become fluent—and a broader account of how language helps shape the way we see the world, and how we work to maintain control over that power. (In particular, I'm thinking about how the French government has an académie whose job it is to maintain the purity of the language, coming up with alternatives to pesky English words that threaten to slide into usage.) How, I wondered, had Collins decided to combine her personal narrative with the reportage and research?


Media Files:
http://www.beatrice.com/life-stories/LifeStoriesLaurenCollins.mp3




Melina Sempill Watts: The Roots of Tree

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 16:36:14 +0000

photo: Elizabeth Jebef, Eyebright Studios Every author faces a challenge in coming to understand their characters, but Melina Sempill Watts set herself a particularly tough task, in that the protagonist of Tree is, well, a tree, named Tree. Watts has to figure out the perspective of a character whose ideal lifespan makes human life seem brief [...]



Laura Hulthen Thomas Plays a Long Game

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 05:58:15 +0000

photo: Ron Thomas Hey, if you’re going to be in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 21, 2017, you should swing by the University of Michigan campus in the afternoon, because Laura Hulthen Thomas will be reading from her new story collection, States of Motion, along with Linda Gregerson, Mike Ferro and Debotri Dhar. And if you’re not [...]



Paul Yoon’s Character-Building “Island”

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 22:40:20 +0000

photo: Peter Yoon It hardly seems like it’s been three years since Paul Yoon won the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award for his first novel, Snow Hunters, let alone seven years since he was tapped as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″ young writers of imminent distinction. Now here he [...]



Caitlin Hamilton Summie: Awoken by Erdrich

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 03:14:40 +0000

photo courtesy Caitlin Hamilton Summie I’ve known Caitlin Hamilton Summie for years, first as the marketing director of some fantastic small independent publishers, and then as the proprietor of her own marketing and publicity firm. Now I find out she’s been writing her own short stories this entire time, and they’ve just been collected in To [...]



The Short Stories That Haunt Sarah Hall

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 01:32:47 +0000

photo: Richard Thwaites I’ve been a fan of Sarah Hall for about a decade now; she’s even been a guest for a literary event I curated back in the day. So I was very excited to see her new short story collection, Madame Zero. From the outright fantasy of “Mrs. Fox” to the emotional turbulence bubbling [...]



Gunnhild Oyehaug: The Freedom of Knots

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 03:47:57 +0000

photo: Magne Sandnes Knots is full of short stories—some of them no more than a single paragraph—that burrow deep into a character’s head as they muddle through situations that threaten to overwhelm them. A man decides he’s going to prove to his wife he’s not a complete loser and tries to go shopping at IKEA; a [...]