Claire Messud

in conversation with Sheila Heti

Recorded Saturday, October 24th, 2020

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Claire Messud in conversation with Sheila Heti

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Claire Messud‘s latest release Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on her own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature.

Claire is a recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Author of six works of fiction including, The Burning Girl, The Emperor’s Children, and The Woman Upstairs. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family.

Sheila Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Motherhood,  How Should a Person Be? and Ticknor, and the story collection, The Middle Stories. She was named one of “The New Vanguard” by The New York Times; a list of fifteen women writers from around the world who are “shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”

Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. Her most recent novel, Motherhood, was chosen by the book critics at the New York Times as one of their top books of 2018, and New York magazine chose it as the best book of the Year. Her novel, How Should a Person Be? was named one of the 12 “New Classics of the 21st century” by Vulture. It was a New York Times Notable Book, a best book of the year in The New Yorker, and was cited by Time as “one of the most talked-about books of the year.”

I’ve discovered over the years that the simplest explanation is almost always the right one; and that hunger of one kind or another – desire, by another name – is the source of almost every sorrow.”

Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs.

A personal note from Claire Messud.

Sent following her Conversations with Authors session.

Huge thanks to everyone who joined us for my conversation with Sheila Heti on Saturday. I’m very grateful to Book Passage for the opportunity, and for its wonderful existence in the world. Independent bookstores have been a lifeline and a godsend in these challenging months, and they need our support more than ever. I was so thrilled to have the chance to talk with the amazing Sheila Heti – whom I first met on a flight to Australia, now many years ago, and whose brilliance on the page and in person have captivated me since longer ago still – I read HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE? when it first appeared, and have been a fan ever since. The only thing better than our time together on Saturday would have been to be with Sheila and all of you in real life.

There are so many amazing books I’d love recommend to you.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read Sheila Heti’s remarkable novels MOTHERHOOD, HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE? and TICKNOR.

And here are a few contemporary books of essays that are dear to my heart… 

Daniel Mendelsohn’s exhilarating new book of essays, THREE RINGS

Valeria Luiselli’s TELL ME HOW IT ENDS: AN ESSAY IN 40 QUESTIONS

Edwidge Danticat’s CREATE DANGEROUSLY

Alexander Chee’s HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL

Plus, I’m not sure if it counts as non-fiction or fiction, really, but the latest issue of FREEMANS, which is on LOVE!

And a few recent novels and books of stories I’ve loved…

Douglas Stuart’s SHUGGIE BAIN

Maaza Mengiste’s THE SHADOW KING

Laura van den Berg’s story collection I HOLD A WOLF BY THE EARS

And a few unforgettable recent books of poetry…

Fiona Benson’s VERTIGO AND GHOST

Robin Coste Lewis’s VOYAGE OF THE SABLE VENUS

Ilya Kaminsky’s DEAF REPUBLIC

And in case you didn’t know about it, just published, a last book of poems from our beloved and mourned Eavan Boland, THE HISTORIANS, which I myself cannot wait to read.

How grateful we all are to books, more than ever in these hard times; and especially grateful to independent bookstores and to Book Passage in particular, for creating a precious community space for talking about books and ideas. Thank you all again for being with me and Sheila on Saturday!

Regards,

Claire