In Conversation: Jo Ann Beard and Ralph Sassone
Wednesday April 25, 2012
The coming of age novel has a long tradition in literature, from Huck Finn's adventure down the Mississippi to Harry Potter's days at Hogwarts. We took a close look at the bildungsroman, with two authors of recent coming of age novels. Jo Ann Beard and Ralph Sassone read from their books and discussed the form.
Jo Ann Beard is the author of The Boys of My Youth and the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She teaches nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Rhinebeck, New York. Her first novel In Zanesville is available in paperback this spring.
Ralph Sassone was born in Manhattan. He studied writing at Columbia and at Brown University. A former editor at The Village Voice, he has worked as a freelance writer or editor at several publications including The New York Times, Details, Newsweek, American Short Fiction, Newsday, and FiveChapters.com. and he has taught creative writing at Brown, Haverford College, and Vassar, where he is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of English. In spring 2011 he was a visiting artist at The American Academy in Rome. His first novel, The Intimates, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2011 and by Picador in 2012. He lives in New York City and upstate New York.
About In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard: The narrator at the center of the story is a late-blooming fourteen-year-old everygirl living in a small midwestern town in the 1970s and flying under the radar—a sidekick, a third wheel, a marching band dropout, a disastrous babysitter, the kind of girl whose eureka moment is the discovery that “fudge” can’t be said with an English accent. Fortunately, she has a best friend, Felicia, a similarly undiscovered girl with whom she shares the everyday adventures—sometimes harrowing, sometimes embarrassing—of a 1970s girlhood, incidents through which a world is revealed and character is forged. In time, their friendships is tested—by their families’ claims on them, by a clique of popular girls who stumble upon them as if they were found objects, and by the first startling, subversive intimations of womanhood. With dry, irrepressible wit and piercing observations, Jo Ann Beard shows us that in the seemingly quiet streets of America’s innumerable Zanesvilles is a world of wonders, and that within the souls of the awkward and the overlooked often burns something radiant.
About The Intimates by Ralph Sassone: Spanning years and continents, beginnings and endings, it is about two gifted and striving people who discover themselves in the reflection they see in each other, and how their affinity anchors them at critical points in their lives. Maize and Robbie are drawn to each other from the first time they meet in high school. When it becomes obvious that their relationship won’t be sexual, they establish a different kind of intimacy: becoming each other’s “human diaries.” Their passionate Friendship plays out against a backdrop of charged connections: with lovers and would be lovers, family members, teachers, and bosses. For the better part of a decade they’re inseparable fellow travelers, but ultimately they must confront the underside of the extreme and complicated closeness that has sustained them since they were teenagers. Full of indelible characters, engrossing situations, and observations as sharply witty as they are lovely and profound, The Intimates renders the wonders and disappointments of becoming an adult, the thrills and mesmerizing illusions of sex, and the secrets we keep from others and ourselves as we struggle to locate our true character.