Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Allen Shawn Interview

2-17-2011 Haartz.com

Interview by David B. Green

Questions and Answers: A Conversation With Allen Shawn


On Jewish influences and family decisions about religion:

When I had children with my first wife [the writer Jamaica Kincaid], I didn't want them baptized. She grew up as a Methodist. I just thought it was terribly important to acknowledge the background that they had and have had, and in the end my wife converted to Judaism. She in fact became quite an expert on the subject and was for a time the chair of the board of the local temple. And my son had a bar mitzvah and my daughter had a bat mitzvah. They learned some Hebrew. As a result, I was in a synagogue quite a bit and was terribly moved to get to know a little more about Judaism.

On the privacy and personal autobiographical element:

 Your books are indeed both very personal and also fascinating introductions to mind science and the eternal nature-nurture debate. Was it hard to strike such a balance?
 Obviously, I tried very hard to find that balance. On the one hand, I tried to "personalize" the science, and on the other, to abstract my personal experience - or universalize it. I removed almost everybody's name from the body of both books, so that the books would be about family life and about fear and about mental disability, about difficult decisions and about loss - about themes that do apply to everybody - and not so much about the Shawn family specifically. Nevertheless some people still do put the gossip factor back into the book, and that is probably inevitable.

On his parents sending his twin Mary to an institution:

 I feel tremendous sympathy for my parents, dealing with what they had to deal with. Some people try to simplify these issues, how to deal with a child who is on a different plane than the rest of the family, but it is not so simple to determine what is best for the child, and what's best for the family. It requires incredible patience for those who are with Mary day in and day out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Allen Shawn New Book: Twin

Jamaica Kincaid's ex-husband Allen Shawn writes another memoir: Twin: Overcoming Remoteness
Positive book review by Michael Roth (President, Wesleyan University) February 6, 2011
Huffington Post

Excerpts from article:

It was only in recent years, as he prepared his subtly powerful and personal study of phobia, Wish I Could be There, that Shawn came to realize just how important Mary has been for him. Before that, all he felt "was a kind of blank place inside, where memories and feelings should have been." With Twin he tries to fill in that blank space, or at least to explore its contours.

Shawn writes beautifully, with an elegance, candor and tact that are remarkable. He is personal without ever being gossipy, and so this is not the book for those who want more dish concerning the decades-long secret relationship of his late father, New Yorker editor William Shawn, with staff writer Lillian Ross, or about the author's own 20-plus-year marriage to writer Jamaica Kincaid. His father's relationship is discussed because it now seems key to understanding the "religion of denial" in the Shawn household, but his own marriage and divorce are off-limits. Whether this is discretion or simply a continuation of the family tradition of avoidance is impossible to say.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kincaid's Positive Reception

Article PDF links and Kincaid biography

Also excerpt from A Small Place

Brandis University article quote: The Justice.org The Independent Student Newspaper of Brandeis University

Kincaid said she feels a sense of narcissism and vanity about writing and reading her work to an audience, but added she takes more pride in growing a difficult flower than in her novels once they have been published. She showed her modesty and humor when talking about how all of her work is autobiographical, even if it's fiction, by saying, "It's not clear I'm really a writer. I aspire to be one," which elicited a chuckle from the audience.

Kincaid's new novel about Mr. Sweet...Is it autobiographical? Quote from Brandeis article 2006

After an introduction from Prof. Faith Smith, who chairs the Afro- and African-American Studies department, Kincaid, 57, surprised the crowd-so familiar with her bold, often angry prose-with a soft-spoken, British-Caribbean voice that was so hushed that the audience was inspired to stop eating their provided refreshments and listen. Standing tall with a head of neat corn-rows and a raindrop-shaped face, Kincaid gave a casual introduction to her new novel. The story deals with the Sweet family, who live in a small house in a small village, beginning with the birth of a son. Kincaid described the structure as involving a narrator who sometimes sees the future, sometimes sees the past and sometimes sees reflections of the past in the future; a format she said "sounds confusing, but makes sense to me." In the first pages of her work, through the eyes of the narrator, Mrs. Sweet is seen reflecting on both the destiny of her baby Heracles and on birth in general, which she describes as "a person forcing themselves out into a new set of experiences."

 Article by Kate Willard at the Justice.org Brandeis University October 10, 2006
The long url: 

New Play by Bess Wohl

Playwright Bess Wohl
Bess Wohl studied writing with Jamaica Kincaid
Pioneer Theater Company presents "IN "

Playwright Bess Wohl's other plays include Touch(ed), Fake and Cats Talk Back. Her screenplay adaptation of In was included on Hollywood's "Black List of Best Scripts." Since its premiere at Pioneer Theatre Company last season, Touch(ed) has been nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award. Cats Talk Back, a comedy, won the award for Best Overall Production at the NYC International Fringe Festival. Wohl recently wrote an original drama pilot for Fox, and is currently at work on a drama about meat for HBO. Her plays have been developed at The Vineyard Theater, The Pittsburgh Public Theater, The Northlight Theater, TheaterWorks, and The Geffen Playhouse. As an actress, Wohl has appeared onstage in New York, regionally and at Williamstown Theater Festival (five summers) and in numerous films and TV shows. She holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, as well as a degree in English Literature, magna cum laude, from Harvard, where she studied writing with both Seamus Heaney and Jamaica Kincaid.

Mauritius: Georges by Alexander Dumas

The Armchair Traveler 
 Forward in The Modern Library hardcover edition by Jamaica Kincaid.