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The Folded World by Amity Gaige
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The Folded World

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The Folded World by Amity Gaige
Paperback $16.00
Feb 10, 2009 | ISBN 9780812978544

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  • Feb 10, 2009 | ISBN 9780812978544

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“Exquisitely written . . . The bitterness and disillusion of marriage have been thoroughly plumbed in contemporary fiction; Gaige is one of the rare novelists who is more interested in its potential for happiness and grace.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Exhilarating . . . captivating . . . a beautiful story wonderfully told . . . highly recommended.”
–Library Journal

“In this tightly-written and emotionally satisfying novel, a young couple’s marriage is thrown into jeopardy by the husband’s workaholic tendencies… [Gaige] is extraordinarily adept at revealing her characters’ personalities in just a few words… Stirring.” —New York Times Book Review

The Folded World will appeal to readers who like to dive into the muck of internal and interpersonal conflicts, and break the surface with breath born of insight and empathy. Amity Gaige’s second novel lives up to the reputation she earned with her first one, as an original, compelling voice.” —Chicago Tribune (Favorite Books of 2007)

The Folded World is more than a novel: it’s a revelation, about what it means to love romantically in this problematic world. Charlie and Alice Shade’s marriage… inspires us to consider our own attachments in a new, radiant light.” —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

"Amity Gaige is terrific.  Once again she reveals her virtuoso ability to translate the complicated ambiguity of our most haunting feelings, and our closest relationships, into dazzling prose.  For the reader who has been fortified by love’s endurance, baffled by its fragility, and awestruck by the hurricane force with which it hits, The Folded World strikes deep and true." —Christopher Sorrentino, author of Trance

“Gaige was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 [exceptional authors] under 35” for her debut, O My Darling (2005). Her second time around again showcases a gift for capturing the simultaneous proximity and distance in a relationship… Gaige’s off-beat orientation, wit and piercing insights stand up to her first novel, this time in a more sober and less tidy narrative that offers greater breadth in exchange for sweetness.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“One of Gaige’s triumphs is her ability to sustain narrative momentum; as the story progresses and the characters deepen… the book becomes truly gripping. The scenes are so finely crafted, the narrative movement so fluid, it becomes impossible to resist being swept into the world of Alice and Charlie… The Folded World entices one to read with both hunger and patience.” —The Literary Review (Editor’s Choice)

“In reading Charlie and Alice’s story, I was struck by three things: Gaige’s crystalline prose, the three-dimensionality of all of her characters, even the minor ones, and her ability to convey the darkness in the minds of Charlie’s clients, who are suffering from schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Gaige… offers us something very special indeed.” —Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio

“Gaige (one of the National Book Foundation’s "5 under 35") writes elegantly, and she makes the survival of this young marriage a question of grace. Grade: A-.” Christian Science Monitor

The Folded World is an artfully-rendered portrait of Charlie and his wife, a meditation on love, relationships and responsibility, and an exploration of what exactly constitutes the dividing line between sanity and madness… The often-awkward (and sometimes wrenching) dance of the care provider who must know people intimately, yet simultaneously keep them at arm’s length… is portrayed here to stunning effect.” The Providence Journal

Amity Gaige is the Winner of the ForeWord Book of the Year Award for Fiction

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Amity Gaige

Random House Reader’s Circle: Was there something in particular that prompted you to become a writer? Did you choose writing as a profession or did it choose you?

Amity Gaige: That’s a hard question to answer, because I began writing so young that I can’t remember an actual starting of it. I don’t remember making a conscious decision.

Random House Reader’s Circle: Is there a specific writing philosophy you follow? Describe a typical writing day.

AG: My personal writing philosophy is to try and write better every day. I certainly want people to like my writing, but I know that if I write with the intention of trying to please people, the writing will not be good, because it will not be authentic. So, ironically, I have to be willing to write something strange or unlovable in order to write anything truly good.

My typical writing day has changed dramatically since I wrote The Folded World, because I now have a baby. But back then, I would take my days off from work and split them in half. In the morning, I would write. In the afternoon, I would research. I would hunt for interviews, try to get people on the phone, or simply drive around Rhode Island to some of the outer reaches —half-way houses, hospitals—in order to learn, down to the smallest detail, about what it was like to lead lives like those described in the novel.

Random House Reader’s Circle: What sparked the idea for The Folded World? Did the plot flow from beginning to end or did you write segments and tie them together?

AG: For several years before I began The Folded World, I worked at an urban college campus, and had a job in a tutoring center, and people would come into the tutoring center, and for some reason they just kept telling me their life stories. Liberian refugees, recovering alcoholics, ex-convicts, you name it. At that point, I was struggling to finish and to publish my first novel, and not getting far. Perhaps because of this, I identified with the people who talked to me and sought in them some greater wisdom or perspective. But I was young and I did not always know how to behave, nor did I always know whether or not my interest in them entailed an obligation to them. I had one student who became violent and scared me. About this same time, a local social worker was killed on the job. I think I was basically interested in the question of what one should do with all one’s good intentions and one’s hopeful dreams in the midst of a gritty, unfair world. Although that sounds like a difficult space, it was definitely one of the most vital psychic spaces I’ve been in. For this reason, the book was written pretty fluidly, from beginning to end.

Random House Reader’s Circle:The characters in your books are always just a little bit quirky yet easy to relate to. How much of yourself and people you’ve encountered in your own life can be found in your characters?

AG: If you ask me, all the characters are completely invented. No one in The Folded World is based on a real person. But of course your unconscious gets influenced by people you meet over the course of your life.

Random House Reader’s Circle: Which character in The Folded World is your favorite? Why?

AG: I have a soft spot for the small role of the “poet/schoolteacher,” who lives below Alice and Charlie and likes to look at Alice through his peephole.

One of the sections of the book I really like to reread is where the poet/schoolteacher talks about wanting to be given an award for being average and unnoticeable. Alice and Charlie are having a very serious fight upstairs, while he stands there imagining winning the competition for “least competitive person.” It was fun to give voice to the feelings of the frustrated artist, working a vaguely related job for a dream of art. On the other hand, that character also represents, to me, a caution against giving in to one’s cynical persona. He is so afraid of the risks of intimacy and passion that he is only comfortable when looking through a peephole.

Random House Reader’s Circle:What kind of books do you like to read? Whose is your favorite author and how has she inspired you?

AG: I like the greats—Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence are some of my favorites. I also like to read poetry to remind myself that all writing should always be metaphorical or heightened. I often read poetry to “warm up” before I write. I read Rilke’s Duino Elegies several times a year. Some contemporary books I’ve loved this year: Ken Kalfus’ A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, Christopher Sorrentino’s Trance, and Tom Bissell’s Chasing the Sea, and I love Janet Malcolm’s non-fiction.

Random House Reader’s Circle: What do you like to do for fun?

AG: I love to play tennis, though I have a rather limited talent for it. I also like to cook. With my son, we do a lot of abstract “dancing” around the house. My husband and I go on long walks with him. I like to go out with my husband, and talk about all the places we’ve been and what we would do if we were rich.

Random House Reader’s Circle: Have you begun your next book? Can you give us a sneak peek?

AG: It’s in such the early stages I can’t yet really see its plot, etc. I can say that it is definitely one of the most personal things I’ve ever written.

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