Just yesterday, BookPage contributor Stephenie Harrison interviewed Nicole Krauss for our October print edition. Steph enjoyed the conversation—and its subject, the forthcoming Great House—so much that we begged her to give us a preview in a guest blog post. She kindly agreed!
Great House by Nicole Krauss
W.W. Norton • $24.95 • October 12, 2010
With her second novel, The History of Love, Nicole Krauss gained thousands of fans who responded to her touching journey into the heart of loneliness and the ways in which love sustains us. Its unconventional structure and deeply poetic prose made it a favorite pick for book groups, and referring to the title alone can frequently cause one of two reactions amongst staffers here at BookPage: 1) glassy-eyed gazes accompanied by murmurs of adoration; or 2) paroxysms of enthusiasm and a heightened heart rate akin to the fluttering of a hummingbird's wings. Little surprise then that the arrival of galleys here at BookPage of Krauss' upcoming novel, Great House, was met with a flurry of frenzied bids amongst editors and reviewers alike to get their hands on a copy.
This reviewer called "dibs" on a copy literally seconds after BookPage received news that galleys were heading their way (just ask my editor; she'll confirm it!), and I dug in with a vigor and single-mindedness that I’m sure made the rest of my teetering tower of TBR books envious.
Rather than a single story, Great House shares the tales of four individuals who are linked in a variety of ways, some subtle, some less so. Initially, a rather imposing desk which has held a prominent place in all of their lives—an ark for all their sublimated frustrations and desires—forms the point of intersection. Through a lens that shifts across time and space, readers will dip into the lives of writers, parents and lovers, slowly furrowing deep into their very cores, where universal fears and the crux of identity are laid bare, serving as the true foundation that unites this colorful cast of memorable characters. Of course, characters and plot are but one portion of any successful novel; perhaps Krauss' great genius is her ability to populate novels of ideas with such vivid people, all cloaked in the most exquisite language. Here one of the characters, reeling from the removal of the desk from her life, finds herself questioning her skills as a writer:
The next day I did not go out to look for a new desk, or the day after that. When I sat down to work, not only was I unable to muster the necessary concentration, but when I looked over the pages I’d already written I found them to be superfluous words lacking life and authenticity, with no compelling reason behind them. What I hoped had been the sophisticated artifice that the best fiction employs, now I saw was only a garden-variety artifice, artifice used to draw attention away from what is ultimately shallow rather than reveal the shattering depths below the surface of everything. What I thought was simpler, purer prose, more searing for being stripped of all distracting ornament, was actually a dull and lumbering mass, void of tension or energy, standing in opposition to nothing, toppling nothing, shouting nothing.
Tell us, has this little snippet made the wait for October 12 release of Great House even more unbearable? Will it feature at your book club? (If so, in the interim, you may want to check out some of BookPage's recent Book Club columns for inspiration!)
What are you reading today?