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Rachel-K
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Questions for Arthur?

I think Arthur would love to hear any questions we have for him before our time is up here!
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Rachel-K
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Re: Questions for Arthur?

Arthur,

I was sure when I started the novel that the "blue light" hallucination must have been inspired by the chronic sleeplessness of early parenthood. And I have talked to other women who also had neon "spiders" or floaters in those first couple of months of every two hour feedings. Is this totally off?

I loved that Constance's sleeplessness was so tied into the horrors.
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Rachel-K
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Re: Questions for Arthur?

Another question for Arthur:

Your three novels are incredibly different--the settings, the voices, etc.-- but they do seem to have in common some fantastic twistedness--a sense by the end of the work that you can't rely on any of the story you've been told.

Do the complications of the story come with your ideas for a plot? Do you ever think up a "simple" story first and have to find a way to turn everything upside down as you go along?
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ArthurPhillips
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Re: Questions for Arthur?



rkubie wrote:
Arthur,

I was sure when I started the novel that the "blue light" hallucination must have been inspired by the chronic sleeplessness of early parenthood. And I have talked to other women who also had neon "spiders" or floaters in those first couple of months of every two hour feedings. Is this totally off?

I loved that Constance's sleeplessness was so tied into the horrors.




I think that's a great association, and I really, really wish that I'd thought of it myself. I will say this: once, when my two-year-old was crying out in the night, I stumbled down the hall towards his room and slammed my face into the doorjamb, whose location I had misjudged by a few inches. SO, yes, I do think that parenthood for anyone under about 5 years old causes such a distortion in your sleep and body that you might as well be viewed as insane.


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ArthurPhillips
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Re: Questions for Arthur?



rkubie wrote:
Another question for Arthur:

Your three novels are incredibly different--the settings, the voices, etc.-- but they do seem to have in common some fantastic twistedness--a sense by the end of the work that you can't rely on any of the story you've been told.

Do the complications of the story come with your ideas for a plot? Do you ever think up a "simple" story first and have to find a way to turn everything upside down as you go along?




This is a great question, and maybe especially interesting to me because it makes me think about some stuff that I do without thinking about it.

First of all, some (but not all) of my favorite writers do play with the structure of the novel itself. In the most extreme case is the novel Pale Fire, by Nabokov, which I consider to be a perfect and spectacularly original book. So, I think I have been unavoidably influenced by reading a lot of writers who consider form to be a possible place for fun.

But then, no, I can't say that I think of a story first and then complicate it second. I think, rather, that complication itself seems like the stuff that I'm interested in, and it's very difficult for me to imagine a scene without realizing, as in the case of Angelica, that events look very different to the person across the room (with their invisible motivations and fears) than they do to the other character. Complexity of the situation is the natural world; simplification is the real tricky job....


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Rachel-K
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Re: Questions for Arthur?

I thought of Nabokov's kind of ungraspable storyline, too! It shifts under you while you read it. And maybe it helps to have a particularly enmeshed narrator (although with Angelica we have to discover her as the narrator as the story progresses). And Angelica--I can't quite tell her motives--would she want to lie? Is she playing a game with the doctor? Is she trying to stay out of an asylum (they were horrible places)? Where, say, Humbert was, on one level, pretty seriously trying to peddle his way out of trouble. But, we don't get an aloof bystander like Gatsby or something.

What bothers me about your answer is my sense of urgency as a reader to believe in just one story where all the details will fall neatly into place if I can catch the story out somehow--and I can't *quite* get there.

Another Nabokovian element is what feels like a missed crucial scene--did Constance stab him? Did Third miss? Did Nora drag the body out? I backpaged with this a couple of times, thinking something had slid by.

If you have this circle of perspectives that can't quite get to what "really" happened--do you write and then remove that scene? (I may be asking a different version of the same question.)
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ArthurPhillips
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Re: Questions for Arthur?



rkubie wrote:
I thought of Nabokov's kind of ungraspable storyline, too! It shifts under you while you read it. And maybe it helps to have a particularly enmeshed narrator (although with Angelica we have to discover her as the narrator as the story progresses). And Angelica--I can't quite tell her motives--would she want to lie? Is she playing a game with the doctor? Is she trying to stay out of an asylum (they were horrible places)? Where, say, Humbert was, on one level, pretty seriously trying to peddle his way out of trouble. But, we don't get an aloof bystander like Gatsby or something.

What bothers me about your answer is my sense of urgency as a reader to believe in just one story where all the details will fall neatly into place if I can catch the story out somehow--and I can't *quite* get there.

Another Nabokovian element is what feels like a missed crucial scene--did Constance stab him? Did Third miss? Did Nora drag the body out? I backpaged with this a couple of times, thinking something had slid by.

If you have this circle of perspectives that can't quite get to what "really" happened--do you write and then remove that scene? (I may be asking a different version of the same question.)




Yes, your urgency is natural, and I agree with it, on one level, and Angelica's psychiatrist (at least it seems to her) agrees with it, too: let's get to the facts of the matter, but she can't. She just can't. She's tried and tried and can't figure out a definite answer and has to live with multiple uncertainty and that's a barrier she cannot pierce. Your pain is a bit of hers.

And, no, it's not like I know the answer and took it out when I was editing. I stayed close, as I was writing, to what each character would know and feel (as far as Angelica could guess.)


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Fozzie
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Re: What's Next?

Arthur, can you tell us anything about what you are working on now? You are not an author tied to a specific type of book, so I can only imagine what type of book may be next.
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Time Period

Arthur, to the best of my knowledge, you never state the year during which the story takes place. I looked for hints, and found some obvious ones, like it being labeled as a Victorian ghost story, women wearing skirts to the floor, the lack of electricity, etc.

I assume that the time period of the story could be considered irrelevant because a mysterious set of events could occur at any point in time and be looked back upon with confusion and conflicting elements, which makes the story of Angelica timeless.

Could you say a few words about the time period of the story?
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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ArthurPhillips
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Re: What's Next?



Fozzie wrote:
Arthur, can you tell us anything about what you are working on now? You are not an author tied to a specific type of book, so I can only imagine what type of book may be next.




Sure - I have a couple things I'm working on, but the most pressing is my next novel, which the publishers are expecting from me in March. I won't say too much except that it is set in contemporary Brooklyn (where and when I live), and it involves a man falling in love with a pop singer. I'm not sure yet if it's going to be a romance or a comedy or a tragedy or a little of all three...


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ArthurPhillips
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Re: Time Period



Fozzie wrote:
Arthur, to the best of my knowledge, you never state the year during which the story takes place. I looked for hints, and found some obvious ones, like it being labeled as a Victorian ghost story, women wearing skirts to the floor, the lack of electricity, etc.

I assume that the time period of the story could be considered irrelevant because a mysterious set of events could occur at any point in time and be looked back upon with confusion and conflicting elements, which makes the story of Angelica timeless.

Could you say a few words about the time period of the story?




Yes, unlike The Egyptologist, which has every day and minute accounted for, this is set in a very vaguely defined Victorian time. IT is approximately the 1880's, but no specific year is given. We know that Angelica is in psychoanalysis later in her life, post-1920 or so.


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Fozzie
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Re: Questions for Arthur?

On pages 240-1, Joseph tells Angelica a fairy tale. I was struck by the line "Whose blade had saved him?" This line, of course, called to mind the blade supposedly used to kill Joseph. I really enjoyed the stories told by people within the book which had the same themes and elements as the book Angelica did.

Was this particular story that Joseph told Angelica based on a real fairy tale? It seemed like I almost knew it, but not quite. That led me to believe it was a combination of standard fairy tale elements woven together to fit the book's story.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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ArthurPhillips
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Re: Questions for Arthur?



Fozzie wrote:
On pages 240-1, Joseph tells Angelica a fairy tale. I was struck by the line "Whose blade had saved him?" This line, of course, called to mind the blade supposedly used to kill Joseph. I really enjoyed the stories told by people within the book which had the same themes and elements as the book Angelica did.

Was this particular story that Joseph told Angelica based on a real fairy tale? It seemed like I almost knew it, but not quite. That led me to believe it was a combination of standard fairy tale elements woven together to fit the book's story.




Laura,

I admit that I LOVE that you felt that you "almost knew it, but not quite." That's exactly what I wanted to have happen. It was based on nothing other than what a nasty little Victorian fairytale might sound like. Have you ever read the ORIGINAL brothers grimm stuff? We read our kids very cleaned-up versions. Childhood used to be a hell of a lot scarier, because life was. "Pocket full of posies," for example. You know what that's about?

Arthur


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Fozzie
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Re: Fairy Tales

[ Edited ]

ArthurPhillips wrote:


Have you ever read the ORIGINAL brothers grimm stuff? We read our kids very cleaned-up versions. Childhood used to be a hell of a lot scarier, because life was. "Pocket full of posies," for example. You know what that's about?




No, I have not read the original Grimm fairy tales. I have heard they are scary. And now people complain that the adapted versions are too scary! LOL!

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful full of posy
Ashes, ashes
We all fall down

If I am remembering correctly, this really refers to an epidemic of scarlet fever (not sure I have the disease right). The posies were thought to protect against the disease. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down refers to the people dying from the disease. How creepy is that to imagine little children singing this during an epidemic!

We lived in England for 18 months, during which time my eldest son was in preschool. The English version of this nursery rhyme was slightly different. I wish I could remember it, but I do remember thinking that it sounded much more like it was about illness and people dying in the English version. Amazing what a difference a few different word choices can make. Well, you know.


Message Edited by Fozzie on 08-01-2007 08:16 AM
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Ring Around the Rosy

Here is a link to information about the origin of the nursery rhyme:

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/ring_around_the_rosy.htm

I was close!
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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