If you are in the publishing world, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the twitter hashtag #franzenfreude. I’m not going to rehash the debate here (if you are interested, you can find what I thought were the most interesting discussions here and here), but for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about—Franzenwha?—here is the two cent version: the extensive coverage of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel FREEDOM led a few women novelists to bravely point out the disparity in coverage for women and male novelists in the New York Times Book Review section. I think Slate’s numbers pretty clearly speak for themselves, but instead of taking the time to make the same argument that has been made elsewhere by people with bigger platforms and who are more articulate than I, I thought now was an ideal time to instead bring attention to a brilliant woman literary novelist. Julia Glass—who believe me has better things to do than be subjected to the inanity of the Julie Has Writer’s Blog Five Questions—kindly agreed nonetheless, and let’s all take a moment to let the legitimacy she brings to this here blog sink in. I’m a little giddy about the whole thing to be honest.
If you are unfamiliar with Julia Glass, let me start by saying she is a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER. Yup, I put that in caps, because holy crap, that’s big. Julia Glass did my five questions! Happy dance. (And by the way, since her five questions made me fall even more in love with her and when that happens I take to the internet in a stalking binge, I dug up Julia’s NBA acceptance speech. You can read it here. It’s truly inspiring, and made me a bit teary.)
Julia’s fourth book, THE WIDOWER’S TALE came out last week, and for a glowing review, by yes, none other than the New York Times, check the link here. I’m so excited to read it that I’m having my Dad bring a hardcover copy over to London when he comes to visit next month. I already know it’s the kind of book that I don’t want to get absorbed into the digital no-man’s land of my Kindle. This one is going proudly on display in the bookcase.
If you are still not sold, here’s the first sentence:
“Why, thank you. I’m getting in shape to die.”
Brilliant, no? Come on, admit it. You are a little in love too.
So without further ado, and with a huge burst of gratitude and excitement, here’s Julia Glass…
1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?
Actually, weeks before the on-sale date of my first novel, my children’s babysitter told me that she’d seen my book for sale on a street huckster’s table a few blocks from our apartment in Greenwich Village. I’m not sure how those advance reader copies “fall off a truck,” but when I walked down the avenue, there was a single ARC of Three Junes, for sale in its not-for-sale, not-yet-proofread edition. I felt a strange mixture of pride and aggravation. But the first time I saw it legitimately for sale was in the window of my lovely neighborhood bookstore, Three Lives—along with the large poster of the jacket supplied by my publisher. I nearly cried. I was with my six-year-old son, who recognized the book and asked, “Are you famous, Mommy?” I laughed and said, “No, honey.” But when this seemed to disappoint him, I amended that to “Well, maybe I’m a teensy bit famous. Sure.” The truth is, at that moment I felt more famous, in the very best sense, than I ever have since.
2. I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?
I don’t know if I agree with you—though I do believe all writers are nerds, no matter how hard they try to hide it. There certainly are times when I wish I could say I was certifiably crazy—it would make a good excuse for so many shortcomings—but I’m just plain-vanilla neurotic: insecure, indecisive, temperamental, and periodically convinced that someone will out me, in fact, as too sane to be a writer of any consequence. Does that make sense?
3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?
I would be crushed if the author, the CO-authors, were anyone other than Margot Livesey and Joan Wickersham, two extraordinarily insightful, witty, and eloquent writers whom I am proud to claim as friends. They’ve known me at my best, worst, and (see above) most neurotic as a writer, parent, woman, and citizen at large. They would do me justice, I’m sure, if there’s any justice to be had. And they’d think up better titles than I could—though an obvious choice might be Better Late Than Never . . . or, if you ask Joan, maybe Ella FitzGeronimo Glass: The Daughter She Never Had.
4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?
I don’t think I’ve ever taken myself more seriously as a writer than I did when I was six or seven years old, the precocious composer of illustrated poems and stories on blue-lined composition paper. Recently, as my parents were cleaning out some drawers, they came upon a cache of my writing from that time. There was an absolutely hilarious poem I wrote that began with the confrontational line “Infinity had better stand still.” Wow, how ballsy is that! When I tried to take the poem home with me, my dad said, “Oh no you don’t. That’s mine. I’m selling it on e-Bay.” But seriously, I strive never to take myself too seriously as a writer—because that’s when you stop being hungry. Every good review (though I treasure each and every one) is an ego snack on the road to a potentially dangerous sense of overfed accomplishment.
5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?
Funny you should ask that. We had a dramatic chimney fire last Christmas. The firefighters arrived in a heroic blink, and, along with the kids and the dog, I fled to a neighbor’s house. (Their dad stayed, like a captain with his ship.) The neighbor, a friend as well as a fan of my fiction, said, “Did you grab your laptop? Don’t lose your new book!” I ran back down the street and convinced the fire chief to let me go in and get my laptop from the kitchen (by then the fire was under control). I was so touched by my friend’s gesture—even though my agent had an electronic copy of the novel. But what three books, not my own, and not counting photo albums of my sons, would I rescue if I had the presence of mind? My childhood copy of Roar and More, by Karla Kuskin (the first book I chose to own); ditto of The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton (my personal first author inscription); and definitely the binder of unpublished poems written by my older son when he was in fifth grade. (Now I wish he would take himself seriously as a writer!)