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Not to have this be an all-out puff piece, but let me try and describe two types of virtuosity I like. Maybe it’s because I spent all summer watching basketball. Dunks and jumpers. Crossovers. If you hate sports, bear with me. But for instance, a jump shot. A technique to it, there’s a purity you can appreciate. That buzzer-beater, last second of the game, or even just pulling up in traffic, as they say, soaking wet; smartly, coolly executed, or from the couch, surrounded by snacks, even watching the pros do it, the effect is weirdly triumphant, gratifying.

Here’s the other type. Because, to get that jumper to go, to have that moment, there’s hours and hours you’ve got to spend, hundreds of thousand of hours, more than shooting, also dreaming, thinking about jumpshots. Let me go ahead and say Jane Liddle’s debut is about murder, not basketball. In that sense, Murder is about nuance. In that we’re all going to die. Right? Sooner or later. And we’re all capable of killing, probably. Consider it that way, and a story, any story is actually, truly, only the details. Fifty-eight murders. Some tragic, some frightening. A funny one or two. Each only a couple of pages. Some like poems. Some, tightly plotted, 3-act short stories. The murder in there about “the Saint,” that was disturbing in a way I can’t exactly explain.

IMG_0620 (1)It seems to me that Dear Lucy is a novel about, among other things, all the different ways there are to make a family. Lucy has been sent away by her struggling single mother; pregnant teenager Samantha is considering giving up her baby for adoption; Mister and Missus themselves are revealed to have had a rather unusual method for obtaining children. When you began, did you know you were writing about family?

Great question! No- in the beginning of the Dear Lucy process, I was not aware that I was writing about family. The piece began as a study of Lucy’s strange, idiosyncratic voice. In the early stages, my primary conscious motives were language based.

Bee photoThe River of No Return, Bee Ridgway’s time travel adventure, set in modern Vermont and London and Regency England, is a swift-moving, smarty-pants joy of a book — a thinking person’s escape into the past, a steamy forbidden romance, and a quest to save the world.  Bee Ridgeway is the pseudonym of the friend of my lucky youth, Bethany Schneider.

JessicaBlau“Quentin Tarantino meets HBO’s Girls.” Kirkus Review’s thumbnail description of Jessica Anya Blau’s new high-energy, crazy-fun novel, The Wonder Bread Summer, out today from Harper, struck me as perfect. (I had been thinking Pineapple Express myself, only set in the 80s and for women.) Now Nick Hornby has signed up to lead the fan club in this review in The Believer. So in honor of her publication this week, I’m turning the tables on the lady behind the Six Question Sex Interview, whom I am also proud to claim as friend, neighbor, muse and skin care advisor.

9780986010903Alice Rosenthal grew up in the Bronx, in the 1950s, with parents who were (unbeknownst to many of their colleagues, and some friends) card-carrying Communists. I know this because Alice’s older sister, Barbara, is my mother.

When I discovered that Alice was writing a novel, loosely based on her own childhood, I was eager to read it. I’ve long been fascinated by the extremes of American paranoia. What I had not expected when I picked up Take the D Train was how piercingly it would explore the complexity of the Fifties, especially for women with independent minds and inconvenient political views.

The novel focuses on the cautious, married Frima and her more impulsive sister-in-law Beth. The trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage provides a harrowing backdrop to much of the action, which is conveyed in prose that is thrilling both for its restraint and precision.

I was curious to know more about how Alice produced such a riveting novel, after years of writing.

Didn’t you just get married?

I did! Thank you for remembering.

 

How’s newlywed life going?

So far, so good. We went through a phase of calling each other Husband and Wife instead of our names, but that’s stopped for the most part. It’s nice to be settling back into normality.