Back in 2008, there was a mystery novel called The Calling by a pseudonymous author named “Inger Wolfe,” and as often happens in such cases, a guessing game ensued. I was writing daily publishing industry news for GalleyCat at the time, and I soon determined, based on insider tips, that Michael Redhill was the most likely candidate. Of course, neither Wolfe’s publisher nor “her” agent were going to confirm that at the time.
Four and a half years later, and Wolfe (who now goes by “Inger Ash Wolfe” so as not to be confused with the Danish crime novelist Inger Wolf) has a new book out, A Door in the River—and what’s this I see in the accompanying press materials? Less than a month ago, Redhill finally outed himself:
“The idea of a pseudonym had been flitting around my brain for a long time, along with its cognate, disappearance. In the 1980s, I published some poems under a pen name in a literary magazine to see what it would feel like. It was fun. It was even a little thrilling. I’d had an early stint in acting school, and there was something satisfying about becoming a character, about being inside another mind that you had to create out of yourself. As I moved toward a life in writing, I found many of the things I’d learned in acting school still applied. No matter what it was, you had to salt yourself into what you were making. You had to disappear into your work.”
I’m not 100% clear on why he’s pulling back the curtain, but if I’m reading the essay correctly, Redhill seems to be suggesting that, as times get leaner and the publishing and bookselling industries contract, it becomes much more difficult for an author to build upon his or her success while refusing to participate in the public sphere—that is, you can’t just send your books out into the world and hope more and more people will keep discovering them; eventually, you hit a plateau, and then you’ve got to put more effort for more success. Which, it appears, he fully intends to do: “Her series has five more books in it and I’d like them to get written. After all the pleasure Inger has given me—not to mention to her small flock of followers—I owe her that.”
9 August 2012 | uncategorized |
photo: Margaretta K. Mitchell
I thought I couldn’t be surprised:
“Do you write on a computer?” someone
asks, and “Who are your favorite poets?”
and “How much do you revise?”
But when the very young woman
in the fourth row lifted her head
and without irony inquired:
“Did you write
your Emily Dickinson poem
because you like her work,
or did you know her personally?”
I entered another territory.
“Do I really look that old?”
I wanted to reply, or “Don’t
they teach you anything?”
or “What did you just say?”
The laughter that engulfed
the room was partly nervous,
partly simple hilarity.
I won’t forget
that little school, tucked
in a lovely pocket of the South,
or that girl whose face
was slowly reddening.
Surprise, like love, can catch
our better selves unawares.
“I’ve visited her house,” I said.
“I may have met her in my dreams.”
Traveling Light is the thirteenth collection of Linda Pastan’s poems. “Ash” appeared in The Atlantic, while “The Burglary” was published in The New Yorker. The New Republic published “Years After the Garden,” and The Paris Review published “Eve on Her Deathbed.” Nimrod published “Counting Backwards,” but it’s available online through the Poetry Foundation’s website, which also hosts “On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial” (first published in Prairie Schooner).
Plus, you can hear Pastan read “Acorns” at Slate.
26 July 2012 | uncategorized |