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And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida
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And Now You Can Go

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And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida
Paperback $12.95
Aug 24, 2004 | ISBN 9781400032419

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  • Aug 24, 2004 | ISBN 9781400032419

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  • Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307424792

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"And Now You Can Go is a swift, fleet novel, a spare but polished miniature. . . . Vida writes with a sense of urgency, and with leapfrogging good humor." –The New York Times Book Review

"And Now You Can Go is so fast, so mesmerizing to read, and so accomplished that it’s hard to think of it as a first novel, which it is–Vendela Vida has promise to spare." –Joan Didion

"Clever and dry and funny. . . . Vida has written a thriller: a thriller about how we love and how we forgive and when and how we have to choose to do so." –The New York Review of Books

“Astonishingly accomplished. . . . Vida creates the stunning impression that relationships are always provisional, even if the most random human interaction has the power to alter–or save–your life.” –Los Angeles Times

“It’s a challenge to not fall in love with Vida’s characters. . . . Equally humorous and heartbreaking . . . Vida has written an enormously giving and heartfelt exploration." –The Austin Chronicle

"Bewitching. . . . Vida demonstrates tremendous patience, sensitivity and droll humor as she charts the path traveled by her memorably odd hero." –Chicago Tribune

"Ellis charms us with her hyperventilated good intentions, foibles and screwups, her whole essence on the page so real and earnest and gullible, so neurotic, so capable we feel as if we have known her our whole lives." –The Miami Herald

“Vida’s gift lies in her assured grasp of the characters, as wacky as they may be, and in her ability to maintain a sense of humor.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“A fearless, provocative and surprisingly funny story of implied violence and one woman’s skeptical pursuit of sanctuary. This observant, fast-paced and engrossing work heralds a writer of great talent.” –The San Diego Union-Tribune

"And Now You Can Go is utterly gripping, a book to be read in one sitting." –The Times Literary Supplement (London)

"Vendela Vida’s first novel defies expectations in virtually every way; what looks to be a tale of psychological trauma, or even revenge, evolves into something much rarer in contemporary fiction: a joyful investigation of the pleasures of living. And Now You Can Go is beguiling, celebratory, and mysterious." –Jennifer Egan

"Subtle and psychologically acute . . . the stark, wry minimalism of Ellis’ voice works in mesmerizing counterpoint to the lunatic situation that engulfs her." –Newsday

"Compulsively readable." –Vogue

“A captivating character study with surprising pockets of wit. . . . Vida has a brilliant eye for the idiosyncrasies and peculiar details that endear her characters to the reader.” –The Plain Dealer

“Wonderful. . . . In addition to its stirring plot and narrator, Vida’s novel offers solid gimmickless prose that shifts deftly according to scene.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

"And Now You Can Go‘s narrator is a cool, quirky customer, but she’s ever ready to do something generous, something noble, something stamped with grace." –David Schickler

“A quick, intriguing and often funny examination of trauma, human relationships and modern life.” –San Jose Mercury News

“An affecting examination of letting go.” –People

"To call Ellis a meticulous observer is, of course, just another way of praising Vida’s skill. . . . Her writing is exceptionally detailed and vivid." –The Washington Post

"It is Ellis’s fierce refusal to play the victim that drives this riveting book." –O, The Oprah Magazine

"An existential Perils of Pauline: A young woman is robbed–at gunpoint!–of her ability to feel. Whether or not she can learn anew how to love is the question at the heart of this wonderful new novel. Comedic yet serious, minimalist yet lush–this is an exciting debut." –Jonathan Ames

“Addictive. . . . Vida creates a complex but sympathetic heroine on a voyage and entices you to follow.” –The Boston Phoenix

"Vendela Vida has a talent for getting into the minds of her subjects. . . . Vida knows what people will do and what they won’t do and what they find themselves doing anyway pretty damn well." –W magazine

"And Now You Can Go is consistently a pleasure to read." –The Independent (London)

"I was captivated from the first page, compelled to keep reading until I finished in the wee hours of the morning. Vendela Vida’s novel is a gift to the reader, a story that contains what I love best about fiction: an idiosyncratic voice, keenly observed gestures, intelligence and heart, and both large and small moments that reverberate in unpredictable ways. And Now You Can Go doesn’t let go. It is the debut of a writer with enormous talents." –Amy Tan

“Honest, quirky, and surprisingly compelling.” –Entertainment Weekly

"And Now You Can Go is a book for people who read for pleasure, a book whose beauty lies in its simplicity and sentences that push just enough." –San Francisco Guardian

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Vendela Vida

Q: In your novel, there’s a character called the R.O.T.C. boy, who puts tacks in his face to, as he explains it, "Show his devotion" to Ellis, the narrator. Please tell me you don’t know anyone like this.

When I was much younger, I knew a guy who…well, let’s just say he was capable of that kind of thing. He was nice enough, but I do occasionally think about him now and worry. I hope he’s resting comfortably, wherever he is, and hope he doesn’t mind my borrowing that detail from him.

Q: The action of the book begins on the first page when Ellis is held captive in Riverside Park by a man with a gun. How did you decide to structure the novel that way?

I read a lot of plays—Ibsen and Strindberg’s in particular—because I love the way plays seem to begin at the last possible moment. That’s why, in some ways, this book reads like a play—everything is set in motion by the first encounter, when things fall apart, and after that, it’s about how things fall back into order.

Q: The book is about Ellis’s life being threatened by a stranger, but it’s also about how the people around Ellis react to what’s happened to her. We expect it to be about how she personally deals with the trauma, but it’s just as much about how a small community of people deals with it, isn’t it?

It’s how young people in New York deal with it too—which is different from what might happen in other places. There’s that sense that something like the hold-up at gunpoint that Ellis experiences is eventually bound to happen, and that it might be your own fault if it does. So Ellis gets an education about the strengths of the people around her, or the lack thereof, and about their assumptions and actions when pushed into a corner. In that way it’s about the social fabric, but it’s also about rage, which is the most common sort of tear in that fabric. In many ways, I think this novel is about the way everyone—you, me, Ellis, other characters in the book—thrusts their rage, whatever its source, on others and how they deal with the rage thrust upon them by others. I think—well, I hope—some of the humor in the book comes from the discrepancy between what we want and what we ask for. I guess I didn’t make it sound funny just now, but I swear it is!

Q: Tell us about Ellis.

: Ellis is the daughter of immigrants, her father Polish and her mother Italian. Her mother always imagined that when she came to the United States she’d land first on Ellis Island and blow the Statue of Liberty a kiss. Instead when she finally arrived, she landed in Honolulu. Thus her first daughter became Ellis. And her parents being so newly American has a lot to do with her own personality. I have a surprising number of first-generation American friends whose parents are from Cuba, Mexico, Norway, or Ethiopia. A lot of them shunned their parents’ advice when they were younger because they felt that their experiences were, well, foreign, and therefore irrelevant. As they get older, though, they find themselves embracing their parents’ cultures and wisdom. And Ellis is on the cusp of that realization.

Q: Half-way through the book, Ellis leaves on a medical mission to the Philippines. How did you decide to take the book there?

I wrote the book without an outline and without really knowing what would happen next. In a way, I wanted to live it as Ellis was living it. When I got half-way through, though, I thought: Okay, now what?

I live in Northern California, where there’s a large Filipino population, and I’ve met a few Filipino doctors and nurses who return to the Philippines every year to offer free medical help. Some of the most needed procedures—because of the Philippines’ proximity to the equator and the deficit of sunglasses—are cataract operations. So Ellis goes with her mother, a nurse, to reflect, to defrost, and … please save me from making some awful allusions to sight, regaining it, etc.

Q: What writers or books influenced you in writing AND NOW YOU CAN GO?

When I look back at the writers who I’ve read most thoroughly, I’m pretty surprised myself. Why have I read everything Philip Roth’s done, for example? It’s hard to pin down my appreciation, and it’s harder to see whether or not he’s been an influence. But I do love his anger, and how quickly and effortlessly it can turn hilarious. But I was also rediscovering Mary Robison while writing this book, and her work probably rubbed off on me in various ways.

Q: Naturally, because the gun scene and the events thereafter seem so real—even the absurdity of events in the wake of the assault is perfect—people will ask if this is based on real events. Is it?

Well, I lived in New York for eight years. If you take enough walks in the park, especially pre-Giuliani, chances are you might have an experience or two. I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Author Essay

At the start of And Now You Can Go, 21-year-old Ellis tries to distract a man who is holding her hostage at gunpoint in a New York City park. Like Scheherazade, in order to prolong her life she recites poetry to her attacker, verses her mother had her memorize when she was young. Although pumped with adrenaline and paralyzed by fear, Ellis is only able to recite fragments, here we offer you the complete version of some of the poems that swim through her head. (Click on the author name link at the top of this page to read Vendela Vida’s essay about writing.)

"There’s poetry!" I say, reaching for something, anything.
"Poetry?" he repeats, turning his head toward me, and I feel the tug–he’s clamped down on the bait. The relief is intoxicating.
–page 6

In a Station of the Metro
by Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Leda and the Swan

by William Butler Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one travler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how the way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this wit a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in wood and I –
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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