Some writers – and readers – like to play it safe. Others test the cutting edge of literature, defying conventional wisdom to invent new genres or dare to follow their obsessions. Chad Harbach has written a sprawling sports novel in the style of Franzen, while Jeanette Winterson threw the literary playbook out the window long ago.
Literary young man Chad Harbach (an editor at Brooklyn lit-mag n+1) has hit a home-run with his first novel, The Art of Fielding. Ostensibly about an unlikely baseball star in a liberal arts college, this big American novel is also about male friendship and team spirit, written in the intelligent, addictive prose style of Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers. The Art of Fielding is a book about baseball in the same way that Moby Dick (Harbach’s inspiration) is a book about a whale – absolutely and not at all.
Chad spent ten years working on The Art of Fielding; he was unemployed when it sold (for $665,000) in what Vanity Fair called ‘the biggest fiction auction in recent memory’. ‘Until then I’d been living hand to mouth,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the New York Times, Michiko Kukatani called The Art of Fielding ‘a magical, melancholy story about friendship and coming of age that marks the debut of an immensely talented writer’.
For Jeanette Winterson, truth is just as strange as fiction. Her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, borrowed from her Pentecostal upbringing, and the eccentric tyrant mother who tried to exorcise her after she fell for a girl. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? revisits this fertile territory under the mantle of memoir. But Winterson is no fan of realism: her stories are playful and inventive, resisting the boundaries of both sexuality and genre – and revelling in the pure sensuality of language.
Talking to Salon about her frustration with the constrictions of genre, Winterson says she prefers to call her latest book a ‘cover version’ rather than a memoir. ‘If I want to use myself as a fictional character, why can’t I? … Paul Auster, Henry Miller, Milan Kundera, any of those writers who quote themselves directly, Philip Roth, for God’s sake! We all say, “That’s so great! That’s so interesting!” But if you do that as a woman, it becomes confessional and autobiographical.’
Chad Harbach will be joined in conversation by Jenny Niven.
Chad Harbach’s highly acclaimed first novel is The Art of Fielding. He is currently the executive editor of n+1 magazine, which he co-founded. Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin, and graduated from Harvard in 1997. He was a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he received an MFA ... Read more
Jenny Niven was the Wheeler Centre’s Associate Director. She is currently Portfolio Manager for Literature, Publishing and Languages at Creative Scotland. Jenny came to Australia in early 2010 after 6 years in Beijing, where she directed the events program at The Bookworm, China’s foremost Engli... Read more
Jeanette Winterson OBE is the author of ten novels, including The Passion, Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body, a book of short stories, The World and Other Places, a collection of essays, Art Objects and many other works, including children’s books, screenplays and journalism. Jeanette’s ... Read more
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