Tuesday, May 04, 2010
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of the bestselling book, "A Fortunate Age," which explores the lives of an artsy group of Oberlin graduates during the late ninetees in New York, who try and find their way amidst economic and personal and professional challenges. The book started with a short story Joanna was working on about ten years ago, when she realized it would be much more then that. She was also inspired by the 1960's book, "The Group," by Mary McCarthy, which I have not yet read but now will. I was so engrossed with the book while reading it (obviously, I highly recommend it) that I contacted Joanna through our Facebook connection to see if she would chat with me. So happy we did.
It was fascinating to listen to Joanna discuss the challenges of handling multiple revisions, taking the book apart and reorganizing it, and coming up with a novel that is not only compelling, but really conveys a unique time and place with wonderful originality and control. Although I went to Oberlin as did she, and loved the little details of college life that I remembered so well (the student union, rock night, WOBC, for all you Obies out there), the book goes so far beyond all that as well, and conveys dramatically and convincingly the highs and lows of relationships, whether they be friendships, romantic entanglements, parents and their children, and rights of passage that are universal, despite the New York backdrop of the novel. The best way I can describe this book is "juicy Victorian," with the cool juxtoposition of everything you'd want in a modern work.
I can't wait to read what Joanna is going to write next. I'm sure she will take us on another exotic literary voyage that reveals our humanism, intellect, and struggle to connect with one another.
Here's a link to the video interview. I'm also including a link (Amazon affiliate) for those wanting to buy the book. Enjoy!