T Here's a moment in Olive, Again the highly anticipated sequel to Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout's bestseller of 2008, in which the writer's virtuosity is fully flaunting posed. Kitteridge, an elderly widow currently living in Maine, discovers a former student in a restaurant ̵
Olive Kitteridge, one of the great, difficult women of American literature, was instantly loved when the book was first published, something to the surprise of her creator. Olive is dull, unpredictable, in a bad mood. Her personality, when fully charged, does not compromise and tends toward the invulnerable, which is why it is almost too much for the reader when her feelings are hurt. In the first book, this was in the form of Olive's son's wedding when she heard her daughter-in-law mock her dress. In Olive, Again it is the moment when Andrea, the poet, killed Olive in a poem and a lot of little trifles and slurs. "God, she was a strange woman," thinks Jack, the man who becomes her second husband, much to his surprise. Olive Kitteridge sold more than a million copies and won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. For the fans of the book, however, it was a greater achievement to take a certain eccentric and unsightly magic type and make it appear noble.
Strout, who is still slightly baffled by the success of the book, is grateful that it came too late in her career; She was 53 years old when Olive Kitteridge was published. "And thankfully, I was not 23. At that point, I had so many years of isolation and work and just got worked up. I was thankful, I was too old to change. "
Ten years later, we are in her home in Manhattan, where she and her husband James, a retired lawyer, live half the time and the other spend half in their home in Maine. They married in 2011 after meeting at one of Strout's bookstores (their first husband, Martin, was a public defender, and divorced after 20 years). Most of Strout's works, starting with Amy and Isabelle released in 2001 and ending with Olive Kitteridge was written in Brooklyn where Strout raised her daughter Zarina, who is now 35 years old is and works as a playwright. "She was my only child and I only loved her pathologically," she says. But while the city nourished her life for decades, it was undoubtedly Maine who made her to Frances McDormand as Olive Kitteridge in the 2014 TV series. Frances McDormand as Olive Kitteridge in the 2014 TV series. Photo: Allstar / HBO
The gap between a character's personality and her inner life can be seen everywhere in Strout's books. For Olive, it is a moment of existential panic as she sees her grandson's abandoned red scarf on the floor, noticing with a sudden sorrow that she failed as a mother. In her fifth novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton the story of a New York-based writer and her mother in Illinois, she finds herself in the gap between the narrative's neat life in the city and the memory of her Spartan , violent childhood. For Strout himself, it has long been the role Maine plays in her psyche.
As in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford the apparent littleness of life that evokes Strout – townspeople who do small city things – makes the movements in them seem larger. Strout always starts with a scene. "I learned years ago that my daughter was small and I only had a couple of hours: OK, if I can stop a scene with a heartbeat, she'll eventually connect with others. So, when I write a scene, I try to use what is most urgent at the moment and turn it into a character so that it becomes a living thing that is real. "The scenes are always consecutive and she often gets stuck. "Oh, all the time. And I just write different scenes over and over again, they really scratch and many end up on the floor. And then I realize, oh, that works and that works with it.
Strout regrets very well and is disappointed – the painful sadness of Olive's bad relationship with her son, Christopher, and she is also good at drive-by observation, which does not contract into a learnable moment, and in anticipation To have a shocking effect at times In a scene in the new book, a young girl allows a man with dementia to watch her mend herself, and instead of feeling annoyed by his voyeurism, it feels weird It's a risky scene, but Strout says, "I think part of me always tries to go against the grain, I do not mean the grain of political correctness, but you always try to look for areas that are not So if that's what they're doing, and it makes you feel important, it's against the grain. "That's not why I did it, but it's an interesting aspect a human experience. "
It took a long time for Strout to realize that Maine was her topic, she had spent so many years leaving the place that it seemed perverted to her to come back to her fiction, growing up in a secluded house outside of Portland, where her father was a scientist – he was studying parasites and tropical diseases – and her mother was an English teacher, she was a strange guy in the family and in this part of the world.The New England figure is closed, repressed, stereotyped, "I used to joke that there must be some kind of mutation of genes," she says. "There had to be! I have an older brother and he is very Maine, very shy "Yankee, and he'll tell you that if he wants to talk to you, and I've always talked, my father told me for Thanksgiving – those joyless Thanksgivings with a chicken off Spices, with no water and no alcohol – and I remembered that my father told me, "If I put my hand on my tie, it means you're talking too much. "
Was she crushed by it?" Oh no! Not from afar. From time to time I saw: Oh! His hand is on his tie! And then I would just start talking again. "After attending college, Strout first told Bates in Maine and later the law school at Syracuse University that she had decided to become a writer. "And her answer was," Well, there has never been a lack of words. "In fact, Strout would be 45 years old before her first novel was published, and the odd thing, she says, is that she never doubted it would one day happen, after graduating, she lived in Oxford for a year Friend in a pub in town lived and worked. "And I tried to write stories, but I did not succeed, I survived – I had a small bedding, a room in a women's shelter outside the city and it was very grim She did not like me. "Her stories were turned down and she went on less from self-confidence than coercion. "I can not do it."
Her education helped her, she thinks. "There was a tremendous isolation from the real world," she says. "Because we lived far away from anyone in the forest and I did not talk to my old aunts who lived down the street and did not pay attention to me, I spent a lot of time alone, developing inner resources out there in the woods, I knew How to be alone And I always just thought if I keep doing that, I'll get better and then I finally have. "
As of 2001 Amy and Isabelle wrote a novel about an in As Maine's living mother and daughter were published and became a bestseller, Strout brought out a large box of rejection letters she had kept in her basement in Brooklyn. "And I thought, 'Well, now I can look at her and I do not care . & # 39; But they always hurt me! "Strout screams with laughter.
The turning point in her writing had come as a surprise when she enrolled in a stand-up comedy class in her late 30s Something in her broke and for the first time she realized that, to be honest, she had to look with a much clearer eye to where she'd come from. "I was as white as everyone up there – especially then – was that I did not even know it.After I moved to New York, I realized that there are many different cultures, but I still did not understand who I was in the midst of all these cultures was until I took this course, the routine was to make fun of myself, because I'm from New England and know so, and then I realized, oh my god, that's me, it sounds stupid, but I was isolated for so long that I just did not know it. "
She wrote about 15 years without success. "I tried to write like a writer instead of finding my own voice. and the other mistake was that I was trying to use a relatively new writing environment – New York – that had not completely settled into me yet. At some point I realized that I had a bit of nostalgia for New England. a small rumbling of oh, right, the way the light would fall through the trees, and then I realized I had to write about it. "
There were encouragements along the way." I would probably send Dan Menaker in the New Yorker two stories a year – I was so slow in writing – and he would always write back more generous personal letters and the last letter says: Please Keep writing because you're writing better than 99.9% of what's on my desk, which was incredibly helpful to me. "
She never begins a novel or a story with an overall view, even her novel of 2013, The Burgess Boys her most political Work that took years to research and tell a hate crime in a Somali community grew out of their interest in family dynamics. Olive, Again e s political influences; A Trump bumper sticker here, a caustic remark from Olive about the local president. But they do not invade and it is never to be felt that Strout is trying to write a state of the nation novel. Her interest was increasingly in truthfulness.
"Even as a child, I wanted to know what it feels like to be a different person. That's the engine that drove me. How does it feel to be this person sitting in the subway? I can see her pants are a little tight, so I know how it feels. I would spend so much time figuring out what it feels like to be a different person.
One of Strout's concerns regarding Olive, Again was that her character had aged and become more thoughtful "She may not have the same pop she has had". That she had put her in a milder time? Olive is still Olive, her power is undiminished.
Many years ago, when Kitteridge's first book came out, Strout was raised by a young woman She said she was part of a group of young women from Greenwich, Connecticut, who met in Starbucks every Monday morning to discuss their "Olive Moments" of the previous week. "It was so interesting, I understand the reverberation not quite, although I'm grateful for that, "she says," It's about authenticity, the indescribable olive-growing of Olive, a woman who, however awkward she may be, is what she is. "What would happen Keeping Olive from this assessment? "Strout grins." It would not interest her. "
• Olive, Again is published on October 31 by Viking (£ 14.99).