The Union of Writers and Readers
When I was young and was just starting to write, I and many of my fellow writers and artists were very much under the influence of 19th and early 20th Century writers who believed it was “romantic” and “authentic” to be shunned by the public for the works they produced. The unspoken assumption was that if a writer or artist were ignored in her lifetime, that could only mean that eternal fame was probably in store when death bestowed upon her artistic or literary immortality. There in the next generation would be the readers who would understand us. After all, isn’t that what happened to the likes of Nietzsche, Van Gogh and Kafka?
But I was young and sometimes young people subscribe to dumb ideas. The idea that a contemporary audience for our works was unimportant was ludicrous. But who should a writer write for? And what is the role of a reader?
When I sat down to write the Tale of Lucia Grandi, I did so because I wanted to tell a story that I felt was important to tell. As a writer, I need to believe in what I write – to feel that out of all the stories I could have written, this is the one that needed to be written. In this way, I ultimately, write for myself. But writing for myself, doesn’t mean I don’t want or need to communicate that story effectively to an audience. On the contrary, my job as a writer is to write the necessary story in such a way as to permit the reader to enter the world I’ve created and entice her to stay.
As a writer I’m also a reader. In my role of a reader I try to approach a book that I’ve chosen with an open mind; I allow myself to enter the world of the story and I try to see things from that perspective that the author is showing us. That’s the least a reader can do. I usually judge a book on how well the writer has done this – drawn the reader in and helped the readers to stay.
When a writer writes essentially for herself, which means that she writes only the stories she needs to write and when a reader allows herself to remain open to the writer’s world, only then is there a union between the two – and a great reading experience ensues.
The Tale of Lucia Grande, the Early Years
When an old woman is asked to tell the story of her life, she tells is an intense and poignant tale about growing up in and surviving an irrational, warring suburban family during the 1950s and 60s. The narrative is told from Lucia’s perspective as the second child where she and her siblings are caught in the middle of a lifelong war between her mother, Ruth, an overbearing, unhappy homemaker, and her father, Leonard, a manipulative, sometimes violent New York City cop. Lucia is the silent, thoughtful eyewitness to her parents’ constant and sometimes life-threatening battle.
The story is told as a memoir; each chapter describes a particular incident in Lucia’s life which shows the constant struggle between her parents and the perverse effect it has on her and her siblings. From her complicated and unwanted birth, to her witnessing a suicide at age 3, to her stint as a runaway at age 14, the story progresses to the final crisis where as a young woman, she is turned out of her house and banished from her family forever.
This timeless story of one woman’s courageous attempt to come to terms with her past and the troubled family that dominated it is powerfully and poignantly told.