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Mar 29, 2011
| ISBN 9781590515044
Mar 29, 2011 | ISBN 9781590515044
From the author of the critically acclaimed Sea WifePraised for her exquisite prose and crystalline insights, Amity Gaige returns with The Folded World, the story of an idealistic young social worker drawn into the lives of his mentally ill clients.Charlie Shade was born into a quiet, prosperous life, but a sense of injustice dogs him. He feels destined to leave his life of “bread and laundry,” to work instead with people in crisis. On his way, he meets his kindred spirit in Alice, a soulful young woman, living helplessly by laws of childhood superstition. Charlie’s empathy with his clients—troubled souls like Hal, the high-school wrestling champion who undergoes a psychotic break, and Opal, the isolated young woman who claims “various philosophies have confused my life”—is both admirable and nearly fatal. An adoring husband and new father, Charlie risks his own cherished, private domestic world to help Hal, Opal, and others move beyond their haunted inner worlds into the larger world of love and connection. A collision of extraordinary characters, The Folded World addresses the universal dilemma of love, wherein giving to another can seem like “the death of the world of oneself.” With an unerring eye for both the joys and devastations of life, Amity Gaige once again reminds us of the pleasures and depths to be found in her fiction.
Amity Gaige is the author of four novels, O My Darling, The Folded World, Schroder, which was short-listed for the Folio Prize, and Sea Wife. Published in eighteen countries, Schroder was named one of best books of 2013 by the New York Times Book Review, The… More about Amity Gaige
“A tightly written and emotionally satisfying novel…Gaige is extraordinarily adept at revealing her characters’ personalities in just a few words.” —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, Best Books of the Year “In reading [The Folded World] 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 mind’s of Charlie’s clients, who are suffering from schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Gaige takes what is really just an ordinary plot (boy meets girl; boy marries girl; problems ensue) and offers us something very special indeed” —Nancy Pearl on NPR “In her exquisitely written second novel, Gaige explores the ups and downs of a fragile, mostly joyful young relationship: Charlie’s over-commitment to his mentally ill clients; Alice’s fleeting attraction to a bookstore clerk; their infant daughter’s first, tentative steps. 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 “Idealistic young social worker Charlie Shade tries to save his psychiatric patients, but puts his marriage and sanity at risk. Gaige offers striking prose and layered explorations of relationship boundaries and madness.” —The Boston Globe
A Conversation with Amity GaigeQ. Was there something in particular that prompted you to become a writer? Did you choose writing as a profession or did it choose you?A. 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.Q. Is there a specific writing philosophy you follow? Describe a typical writing day.A. 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.Q. 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?A. 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.Q. 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?A. 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.Q. Which character in The Folded World is your favorite? Why?A. 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.Q. What kind of books do you like to read? Whose is your favorite author and how has she inspired you?A. 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.Q. What do you like to do for fun?A. 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.Q. Have you begun your next book? Can you give us a sneak peek?A. 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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