Wednesday, May 16, 2007

February House

Did you know that W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee all lived together for a few years under the same roof?

Their fixer-up Brooklyn brownstone was "host to an explosion of creativity, an extraordinary experiment in communal living, and a nonstop yearlong party" as the book jacket of Sherill Tippins' February House reads.

Many of these people will make appearances in my new novel. I'm reading Tippins' book as part of my research. This is the best kind of research, where you lose yourself in great reading that evokes the complexities of people and their time.

Carson McCullers and Jane Bowles--both of whom were married to men but had passionate affairs with women--will figure prominently in my as yet unnamed novel. I'm discovering so many interconnections among the (mainly queer) literary figures of the era that I'm gloriously drenched in the chaos of discovery.

The more I read about Auden and his lover Chester Kalman, the more I think that perhaps I have two or three novels coming out of this research.

I wish I could say more, but I've got to run off to the university to take part in a departmental reading of student essays. It's an all-day affair of reading anonymous paper after paper, scoring them based on a 1-6 rubric. A weird tradition, a bit like self-flagellation. It requires a lot of caffeine to stay on task.


Collin Kelley said...

I can't wait to see what you do with this new novel. Sounds very interesting.

Joan McMillan said...

me, too!

I remember when John E. was talking to the new TAs about the grading, how we were supposed to conduct ourselves while grading the essays and refrain from talking and all...he said something like, "Jollity is strongly discouraged"--and we all roared with laughter, including John! I miss him!