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Sunday, 12 December 2010

"She lives in Brooklyn, New York."

So says the last sentence of the little 'about the author' bit on the back dust jacket of Nicole Krauss' new novel Great House. I was probably in a crumby mood because I said 'so what!' out loud and was about to put the book down when I remembered that I had read a haunting short story by an author named Krauss in the New Yorker earlier this year. That story was called "the young painters" and it had a beautiful stillness and pace, a sort of inviting calmness to the way it unfolded that forced you to slow down and just listen, let the characters and events wash over you. Yeah, it was a doozy: I remember putting the magazine down thinking "Boy, I'm not quite sure what just happened, but I know it was something."



New Yorker story art for "The Young Painters"

Well, as of ten minutes ago I have just finished the first part of this novel, Great House. It's fantastic. It turns out that short story is an extract from the novel, meaning the whole project is written with the same effect. Krauss' writing pulls you in and, so far as I can tell, refuses to let you go till the ghost of some great truth has taken root inside you.



Read Great House.

Not unlike the metaphor of writing as architecture Zadie Smith uses in her essay "Rereading Barthes and Nabokov" in Changing My Mind, Krauss describes novels as houses in an interview with Bold Type:

"A novel is something you can live inside, like a house. It has lots of rooms that serve different purposes. You build it with your own two hands, and although it's never perfect, and things are always breaking or need fixing, the dimensions are such that you can pass years of your life there. You can feel at home in it. You eat, you sleep, you have sex, you open your mail. A poem, I suppose, is more like a room. The word stanza actually means "room" in Italian. If you work hard enough on arranging the furniture, you might actually be able to make that room perfect. I think there's the possibility for perfection in a poem that I'm not sure there is with a novel. But as lovely as that room might be, with just the right light and view, eventually you have to leave it. You get hungry or tired, or you have to go to the bathroom. And in the end, as you walk out, you realize you've closed that door behind you forever. Heraclitus said you can't step into the same river twice. Well, when a poem or a novel is finished, you can't ever go back in the same way. It's just that a novel you live in for longer. And I like that. Wandering around in that house and making a life there."

Here is another neat interview with Krauss.

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