While on assignment in India, Clare, an international journalist, becomes stricken by an illness which destroys her memory. Once back in the states she’s forced to rely on her husband Charlie and her best friend Rachel to reconstruct the past and her memories. Does she remember specifics of her marriage and her friendship, the things that sustain these relationships? Claire senses that something isn’t right but doesn’t know if it’s her marriage or her friendship or a combination. Can she even trust Charlie and Rachel. The novel is effectively told in different points of view and jumps back and forth from present to past and back again.
I spoke with author Joanna Luloff by phone earlier this month.
Amy Steele: Where did you get the idea for this novel?
Joanna Luloff: My mom and I talked about her memory loss and how she had to borrow other people’s memories. A lot of years later when I was actually in graduate school, we started to have this correspondence where I would send her a photograph and I’d ask her what she saw in it and she’d do the same for me. I also did an experimental project for a class that I was taking.
I became more interested in the people surrounding someone with memory loss and how it affects them. To lose the confirmation from other people. The story got shifted away from just a person with memory loss to those people surrounding that person and it started to shift away from my family into fictional characters and what it meant to gradually recover their love for each other and the secrets and all this conflict.
Amy Steele: A lot of times you want to let things go from the past and live in the present but obviously there are certain connections which affect how you’re fitting in with certain people.
Joanna Luloff: The idea that memory is very subjective anyway. We frame the story as we remember it. My brother and I have very different recollections of the same event. As a fiction writer, I love to elaborate and add to the story. I know my stories are often changed through imagination.
Sometimes I think you can rewrite and event or create the situation you’d want to have or rework a situation/ investigate it.
Amy Steele: Did you prefer writing a certain character?
Joanna Luloff: I probably had the easiest time writing Rachel’s character because she gets to be an observer and be on neutral ground but she also has her own secrets. She sees so much so it was fun. And Charlie might have been the hardest because he’s a man from England. I lived in England for a really short time and I was really struck by the reserved politeness and stoicism. I tried to channel a bit of that restraint which British men seem to have.
Amy Steele: Do you think writing his character was the greatest challenge in the overall writing of the novel?
Joanna Luloff: I think the biggest challenge I had was not about character or voice but the structure. I needed to figure out the story’s chronology. For Claire, obviously her memories were super jumbled and the characters are constantly moving from the present to the past. My first drafts of the novel were disjointed.
Amy Steele: I was skeptical of everyone involved. How do you organize? How long did it take you to write the novel?
Joanna Luloff: It didn’t take me a long time to write the first draft. I was at least able to knock out the basic foundation of the book. It was a lot of revisions and layering in the mystery or base suspicion of what the truth might be.
I wrote it out longhand and it worked out well because I was able to rip out pages and lay them out on the floor and play around with what needed to go where and I think it helped to be able to see it in different forms. Once that was in place then I did some adding and subtracting where I thought there needed to be more questioning of the character. I was able to play a bit more with how much the characters were withholding from each other, why they were doing that, all the secrecies and the past injuries to layer in eventually.
Joanna Luloff received her MFA from Emerson College and her PhD from University of Missouri. She teaches at the University of Colorado.
She’ll be appearing at Harvard Book Store on Monday, July 16, 2018.
Any Man by Amber Tamblyn. Harper Perennial| June 2018| 304 pages | $15.99| ISBN: 0978-0-06-268892-7
“But more than any of that, as you know, I loathe feminists. It’s by no small miracle that all feminists in America haven’t been stoned to death by now. I’m just telling you the truth. Feminists are pollution, taking a stance, against what exactly, no one in their right mind knows. They are angry, bitter, saggy chauvinists masquerading as supportive, loving sisters.”
If you’re looking for an intense, intelligent and engulfing feminist thriller, you must read ANY MAN. Author Amber Tamblyn challenges rape culture and the problematic treatment of victims and glorification of violence and misogyny through this thriller about a female serial rapist. The novel follows six men: an English teacher, a struggling standup comedian, a bi-racial web designer, a high school student, an alt-right media personality and a transgender man. A uniquely irreverent and impressively original novel, social commentary and crime thriller meld with insightful, sharp prose and diverse writing styles. She weaves in tweets, poetry, internet chat room, a radio talk show. She also flips everything one expects in thriller. [As a companion read, I recommend Dead Girls by Alice Bolin– an essay collection addressing society’s infatuation with violence against women]. Whether she’s using tweets or poetry or an internet chat room or journal entries, it grabs you from the first page and is impossible to put down. If you’re a woman who has been attacked on social media or elsewhere for expressing her opinion, you’ll really get it. Tamblyn wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times, “I’m Done with Not Being Believed,” which cemented her place among influential feminists who are changing the narrative around trauma and victimization. I found myself nodding and smiling and cringing and marking passages while proclaiming Tamblyn’s genius and reading as fast as possible.
Amber Tamblyn will be at Harvard Bookstore on July 24, 2018.
–review by Amy Steele
if you’re looking to rock out this holiday weekend, indie punk trio Screaming Females will be playing in Somerville in support of their seventh studio album, All at Once, which came out earlier this year. The New Jersey band worked with producer Matt Bayles (Pearl Jam, Mastodon) and modeled the album after a salon-style gallery show. They wanted the new album to capture the spontaneity and energy of one of their live shows.
Drummer Jarrett Dogherty said: “When you’ve been a band for 12 or 13 years, the resources can dry up and you just go back to what feels comfortable. The other option is that you develop stuff that a younger band would not have been able to do.”
$15, Saturday, July 7, 8:30 p.m., ONCE Lounge and Ballroom, 160 Highland Avenue, Somerville, https://www.oncesomerville.com/.
Phantastic Ferniture, “Gap Year”
heavy indie guitar propels this captivating song with vox that sound like Juliana Hatfield.
Sydney, Australia solo artists Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan Brennan decided it might be fun to form a band while celebrating Jacklin’s 24th birthday.
Jacklin said: “Ryan never played drums in bands, Liz had never been a lead guitarist, Tom didn’t play bass and I’d never just sung before.”
Hughes added: “We wanted a low level of expertise, because a lot of good music comes from people whose passion exceeds their skill.”
Phantastic Ferniture’s self-titled debut album will be out July 27, 2018 on Transgressive.
Isla Craig , “Love Song”
–a gorgeous, meditative song with ethereal vocals and varied instrumentation with organ, saxophone, bass and synth. It’s a dreamy eclectic soundscape, a genuine auditory treat. I’m looking forward to hearing the entire album from the Toronto-based multi-dimensional vocalist and songwriter.
The Becoming, the third album from Isla Craig, will be released on June 22, 2018 on Pleasence Records.
- The Becoming
- Out Of A Dream
- Love Song
- I’m Lost
- Faraway Blue
- Who Am I
- The Becoming (reprise)
- Bird Of Paradise
- There Is A Hole
- Messages (garden Edition)
If you’re in the mood for some moody indie rock, check this out.
Singer/songwriter Salim Nourallah will be releasing a double-album, Somewhere South of Sane, this fall on Palo Santo Records. Nourallah calls it “the work of a functional crazy person.” The Dallas, Texas-based musician plans to put out four pre-album “bundles” that will include tracks from the album as well as previously recorded but unreleased material or acoustic re-workings of tracks from past albums. Each bundle will be accompanied by new online video content.
Bundle one, entitled North and set for release on June 1, 2018, will include a track from Somewhere South of Sane (“Relief”) as well as a re-recording of 2015’s “The Bullies Are Back” and the devastatingly beautiful “Totally Lost.”
Bundle two, entitled West, is set for release on June 29, 2018. Included on this release are two tracks that will also appear on Somewhere South of Sane – “Moving Man” and “Going Through The Motions,” as well as a bonus track from the album sessions called “We Were Made to Fall Apart.” The video accompanying this bundle is a clip for the song “Moving Man,” shot entirely by Nourallah’s 8-year-old and 14-year-old kids. It will premiere the week of June 25th.
“I took my sweet time making Somewhere South of Sane,” Nourallah says, “so I figured why not continue the trend and methodically enjoy the pre-release months? I also had almost an entire extra album’s worth of tracks I left off because a triple record felt excessive. I will be releasing that bonus material in each of the pre-album bundles we roll out.”