Voice in Fiction: Susan Jane Gilman & Joshua Ferris

“As an editor, I can help with writing or plot, but the one thing I cannot do is infuse a book with voice,” said Helen Atsma, Senior Editor, Grand Central Publishing, during the Hachette Hot gilman Voice in Fiction: Susan Jane Gilman & Joshua FerrisReads webcast on April 29, cosponsored by Library Journal. “The voice is there, or it’s not.” The voice is certainly there in Susan Jane Gilman’s debut novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, featuring Lillian Dunkle, “a delicious, complicated antiheroine, Dr. Ruth in public and Leona Hemsley in private,” said Gilman, whose character endured a tough immigrant life that taught her to stand firm and do whatever was necessary to defend her family. The voice is also there in National Book Award finalist Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, which details the life of preoccupied New York dentist Paul O’Rourke, who resists religious belief and orders his life around baseball. “The voice comes first,” explained Ferris. “When writing a novel, one must write with some distinction, and that’s voice.”

Paul eventually takes a spiritual detour, investigating a tradition that Ferris invented but grounded in the existing tradition of the Hebrew bible—“otherwise, it wouldn’t be enough for a ferris2 Voice in Fiction: Susan Jane Gilman & Joshua Ferrisskeptic like Paul to take seriously,” acknowledged Ferris. As he leads Paul through the paces, Ferris aims to place us in familiar situations—we’ve been to the dentist, we’ve thought about religion, love, and marriage—and make us see them anew. Will readers discover the real human behavior that Ferris hopes to highlight through an “exaggerated premise”? Was Lillian’s questionable behavior justified by the strenuous circumstances of her life? By raising such issues, both books should make readers stay up late and book club meetings last well beyond their allotted time. Catch the voices of the authors themselves on the Hachette Hot Reads webcast, now archived.

Share
Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*

Featuring YD Feedwordpress Content Filter Plugin