Q&A and Upcoming Reading with Michele Tolela Myers

October 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

Join us Wednesday, November 12th, at 7pm as Michele Tolela Myers launches Fugue for the Right Hand, her new novel set in the intimate heart of our own Morningside Heights, and back-dropped by the American political landscape of 2012. In anticipation, we asked a few questions to get a sense of the literary compass for this academic-turned-novelist.

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How did you come to write Fugue for the Right Hand?

I wanted to write stories since I was a kid. I read constantly, admired writers, and wanted to emulate the authors that kept me interested and entertained. I wrote a couple of awful stories when I was ten. During my academic career, I wrote textbooks, essays, research papers, op eds. But fiction is what I love to read, and my dream was always to write novels, good ones of course! When I was president of Denison University, I was encouraged by a writer on our faculty to join his ongoing writing workshop, and it was my first stab at serious fiction. However, writing novels takes time and also takes space in your head. As a college president I didn’t have the luxury of time. So, in 2007, I retired from the Sarah Lawrence College presidency to write fiction full time. By then I had two short stories published.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Julian Barnes’ Letters from London, humorous essays he wrote for The New Yorker in the early nineties, and his novel The Sense of an Ending, one of the most beautifully crafted and poignant novels I have read in recent years. I am currently reading & Sons, by David Gilbert.

Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so can you share it and tell us why?

I love Philip Roth’s novels. My two favorites are The Human Stain and American Pastoral. The Human Stain because it deals with authenticity, a topic that interests me particularly. It is a complex story, and its structure of stories within stories is masterful. It is full of Roth’s usual biting humor, which I admire. American Pastoral is a magnificent story of a place and time in America, and Roth gives us a panoramic sense of the period through the vivid and particular stories of his characters. It is a masterpiece.

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to the publication of?

If you mean the publication of my novel Fugue for the Right Hand, I would say that I look forward to meeting people who want to read my book, and to speak with them about my story and its themes, in bookstores or other venues. It is my first published novel, and I hope it will reach a large public. I have strong feelings about the tragic economic inequalities in our country, the backdrop of my story, and Fugue was my way to express these feelings. I hope they resonate with readers.

What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?

I am near finishing a novel titled The Real Thing. Its theme is authenticity, and the novel deals with a possible forgery, allegations of plagiarism, and the question of whether we are really all that we appear to be. What makes art, art? Are ideas really free? How heavy a price should one pay for crossing a fine line? It’s a suspenseful story set in a Midwestern liberal arts college campus, a world I know well and love.

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