Truth: Joan Silber is one of my favorite people on the planet. When I first read her book Household Words, I carried it around, rereading it, underlining passages, so haunted, I couldn't put it down. I eventually tracked her down and had lunch with her, and we became friends. Actually, one of the high points of the Jewish Book Council auditions was seeing her there--like the best kind of surprise! Even better, at the reception, when I drifted into a room off the side just to get a minute of alone time--Joan was already there!
Her new collection of short stories, FOOLS, is, in a word, genius. And I'm not the only one who says so. The Boston Globe raves: Silber deftly constructs whole, fully realized lives in just a few pages." Publishers Weekly, in a starred reviews, says: "This tightly constructed collection shows her talents at their finest. "
Joan's first book, the novel Household Words won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her four other works of fiction include: In the City , In My Other Life , Lucky Us , Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize, and The Size of the World , finalist for the Los Angeles Times Prize in Fiction and one of the Seattle Times’ ten best books of fiction of 2008. In the summer of 2009 she published a nonfiction book in Graywolf Press’ “The Art of” series, The Art of Time in Fiction.\She’s been the recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her short fiction has twice been chosen for an O. Henry Prize and twice for a Pushcart Prize. Stories have appeared in The New Yorker,Ploughshares, The Paris Review, and other magazines. Her most recent story, “Fools,” appears in the winter 2009 Northwestern Review.
Joan teaches fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She’s also taught at New York University, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the University of Utah, Boston University, and the 92nd Street Y. Her summer teaching has included conferences at Napa Valley, Bread Loaf, Indiana University, Manhattanville College, Stonecoast, Aspen, and Sarah Lawrence College.
Thank you so much for being here, Joan!
These maneuvers with time have helped me try to make the work bigger. I always think I’m a miniaturist by nature—I like to get in very close—and I wanted the work to have a wider perspective, a more spacious feel to it. More in line with what my beliefs are now.
I’m a steady writer. I show up at my desk after lunch and sort of try to work until dinner. I revise the sentences as I go—I don’t go through multiple drafts. I take notes before I start to write, but I’m always surprised later at how little is there—I thought that was going to be a whole story? More stuff is required than I ever think.
What’s obsessing you now and why?