Saturday, May 4, 2013

Liz Rosenberg talks about the laws of gravity, what we owe the people we love, education issues, and so much more

Two families torn apart by a terrible decision. In her new novel, The Laws of Gravity, Liz Rosenberg gets at what we do for love, and why. And I'm not the only one who loved it.

"The Laws of Gravity is a heart wrenching and honest exploration of family love and betrayal. A real page turner right up to its beautiful last page." – Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread andThe Knitting Club

“The Laws of Gravity is an unflinching portrayal of that place where fear and family collide. Part medical drama and part family saga, it reminds a reader of how easily the ties that bind can fray. Heartbreaking." – Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls

Honored to have Liz here. Thank you, Liz.

So, what sparked this particular book?

The seed of The Laws of Gravity was planted almost 30 years ago when I read a newspaper article about a cousin who had sued his cousin for a medical transplant and lost the case in court. After he died, they asked the surviving cousin how he felt. I had an immediate sense that there was a novel hidden in this-- one couldn't help but think about all the people involved; the family connections, the widow; the judge. But it took me this long to feel I was ready to write that story. 

Titles are terribly tricky. I worked on a draft I simply called "The Judge Novel." Then my publisher at some point, very naturally, came to me asking for a better title. I  jotted down 5 or 10 phrases that felt right, and The Laws of Gravity instantly felt the most right. I think of a title as an address for where a work lives. 

What do we owe to the people we love? 

I suppose the easy answer would be-- everything. And nothing. Love is not about debt, somehow, but about gifts. Lewis Hyde's wonderful book THE GIFT explains all that in marvelous detail. At one point in my novel the cranky old aunt says, Family is how we ought to treat everyone in the world, but don't. My own 9 year old daughter takes great comfort in knowing that we're all related. And as Auden reminds us, "We must love one another, or die."

What's your writing life like?

When I'm in the thick of a novel I try to write two pages a day.Every day. I take one day off. Some days I get lucky and write more.  I also write single space in order to trick myself. This 2 page rule I got from the novelist Larry Woiwode, by the way. And I do follow Hemingway's advice to stop while the writing is "hot"-- while you know what is tumbling up ahead. 

What's obsessing you now?

I think what's obsessing me right now are the problems with education. Especially all the testing we're doing. It all feels terribly torqued. We are valuing the wrong things, paying for things that don't matter and starving out the things that do. It's an insane time in education, really a terrible time to be a public school teacher. I can't imagine how they have the bravery to keep on doing it in the face of all these punishing changes and rules. 

Hmmm.. what question didn't you ask that you should have asked?  

Maybe you could have asked, what do you hope to accomplish in this novel? Because I would say, I hope this novel touches readers. Not in a simple, sentimental way, but at a deeper level. I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Maybe I DID throw in a kitchen sink-- I know there's a kitchen counter, a very expensive one, that comes into play. I wanted to talk about love and redemption and family and loss and law and justice. I feel lucky I got to do that. And I'd like to be able to keep on writing books that matter to people. 

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