Apr 4, 2016

Seven days in the book world with Carole DeSanti

Carole DeSanti is Vice President, Executive Editor at Viking Penguin, where she is known as a champion and curator of outstanding, original voices --  among them, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being,  Melissa Bank’s Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, George Hodgman’s Bettyville  and Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Unruly Passions of EugĂ©nie R.  Here is Carole's week in her own words.

"Dear Paula,

Funny you should ask because last week was truly a wild and delicious week of reading.   Having been in deep mourning upon reaching the finale of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels  (a reading experience like no other) I did not know where next to turn.  But a stroke of good fortune took me to Italy, in fact – to Rome – and there I continued an Italian Odyssey (first stop: English Language bookstore).  As it is short, and there were many sights to see, I first dove into Henry James’s classic fictional character study Daisy Miller.  The story is set in Rome, reminding us of the long history of travelers there – and it also figures in the plot of a novel I’m about to start editing, The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith (you heard it here, first!)  

From there, Jhumpa Lahiri’s beautiful and mysterious journey away from the English Language, In Other Words carried me into new ideas about life and language (and I’d heard Lahiri speak about Ferrante recently, and sensed connections afoot).  Interwoven with this was – on a tip from a good friend –  Dacia Maraini’s stunning novel The Silent Duchess, about a deaf and mute woman in Sicily in the mid-18th century.  Truly a work to savor and with a great deal to teach us about life.  … Why did the duchess fall deaf and mute?  The reason resonates well beyond her time.  (With deep thanks to The Feminist Press for keeping it in print.) 

I also picked up a copy of Elsa Morante’s History, A Novel to re-read in homage to Ferrante and because I loved it 25 years ago – an re-reading, as I have found, is one of the great pleasures of later life.   But, meanwhile, I had a date with the British Library, and another world of books:  research for a new project.  Unlikely to go to the top of most reading piles, these ingredients for my creative stewpot – which simmers on the back-burner as it must, a lot of the time --  included 1) Dekker and van der Pol’s survey of female transvestism in the early modern period,   2) a 17th century philosophical work about the natural world called The Wisdom of God by John Ray and 3) a highly illuminating work on the slave trade, Slavery Obscured, by Madge Dresser. Among various and diverse other sources…

For a total change of palette – and the plane ride home –  I decided to laugh my way across the Atlantic with an early copy of Gina Barreca’s just-published collection of spot-on cultural observations, If You Lean in, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? 

So, a trip through time and many minds.  Happy reading, and don’t forget to range freely!"

Carole's week in a nutshell  

The Neapolitan Novels (2011-2014)
In Other Words (2015)
Daisy Miller (1879)
The Silent Duchess (1990)
History, A Novel (1974)
If You Lean in, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?  (2016)

Unruly Passions of Eugenie R is available now 9780547840215
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1 comment:

Madge Dresser said...

You made my day!
Greetings and thanks
from England
Madge Dresser