Anything for Jane

Paperback $15.00

Random House Trade Paperbacks | Jun 10, 2008 | 304 Pages | 5-3/16 x 8 | ISBN 9780375760709

  • Paperback$15.00

    Random House Trade Paperbacks | Jun 10, 2008 | 304 Pages | 5-3/16 x 8 | ISBN 9780375760709

Author Q&A

A Conversation with the Author

Random House Readers’ Circle: Anything for Jane is the last in a trilogy of novels about Morningside Heights. Is there any chance you would set future books there?

Cheryl Mendelson: I don’t expect to. What interested me in the setting was that it offered the chance to follow characters I loved through a bittersweet experience of loss and change. A neighborhood that had held a certain character for a century did at last change. Anything for Jane takes place in the new Morningside Heights. But never say never!

RHRC: This novel makes a point of linking good parents and poor citizenry. Is part of that point the idea that the people of the new Morningside Heights are less socially engaged than their predecessors?

CM: Yes, like many people elsewhere. The fattening of parenthood is an obvious consequence of the starving of other roles. But idealism can turn away from the world in a variety of ways of which this is only one.

RHRC: How important is place in today’s world and in today’s novels?

CM: In real life, place becomes less and less important as cities and towns grow more and more alike and because it is easier and more comfortable to move than ever. People do move constantly from one place to another, making the homogenization go farther and faster. Except for the real estate values that affect the square footage of their apartments or houses, the people you’ll run into today in Seattle aren’t terribly different from those in Atlanta, London, Rome, or Morningside Heights. Until very recently, that wasn’t true. I sometimes think that’s why lately Americans so enjoy novels about India and Afghanistan—places that are still different, at any rate for a little while longer.

The Morningside Heights novels are about a place in the process of losing its differences. For a century, Morningside Heights was home to a distinctive society whose character reflected the institutions of learning, music, and religion that clustered in this small and self-contained neighborhood— Columbia University, Riverside Church, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, and many more. The existence of all these institutions within walking distance of one another created an idiosyncratic and resilient world dedicated, as its founders hoped it would be, to matters of mind and spirit. It is testimony to the gargantuan power of the social changes our country is undergoing that Morningside Heights, with its unusually sturdy roots in the past, resisted such changes only a few decades longer than other places did.

RHRC: How important is place to you?

CM: It is all-important to me both personally and as a novelist. So far, at any rate, I seem not to be able to imagine stories in which place is not highly significant. In my life, I have lived many places, but only two have had the feeling of home to me. The first is the farm and neighboring village in Appalachian southwest Pennsylvania where I grew up. A place whose loss I have never recovered from and where an amazing number of my dreams still take place. The second, the only replacement for my Pennsylvania roots that I ever found, is Morningside Heights.

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