Claire Messud to Publishers Weekly: "What kind of question is that?"

Do you like Jonathan Franzen's characters? David Foster Wallace's? Roth? Then stop asking Claire Messud about hers

Published May 1, 2013 2:47PM (EDT)

In Salon this week, Laura Miller raved that Claire Messud's new novel, "The Woman Upstairs," is "claustrophobically hypnotic" and "a ferocious portrait of creative and spiritual frustration."

The author's feeling some of that frustration as well, with reductive media questions about the likability of her main character -- a question that might not be posed to a male author in quite this way -- as this new interview with Publishers Weekly shows: 

I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

By David Daley

David Daley, former editor-in-chief of Salon, is the author of the national bestseller “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count” and “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”

MORE FROM David Daley

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Books Claire Messud David Foster Wallace Jonathan Franzen Junot Diaz Martin Amis