How Close?

28 Mar
This Close by Jessica Francis Kane

This Close by Jessica Francis Kane

This being an especially full period for my To do list, the time between an actual conversation and its publication has increased. Which may or may not matter (though I know publicists are not pleased). But I can satisfy some of my presumed obligation by noting some topical issue or other that came of, for instance, my recent chat with author Jessica Francis Kane.

We met recently in Brookline Massachusetts(where I am a fugitive, being on the town’s tow list for 6 alleged parking violations) on a sunny Sunday. This was our second conversation, the first coming on the occasion of the publication of her novel, The Report. Of a wide ranging (within the confines of a literary map)reach, our chat covered some current matters, one which I thought particularly amusing and apposite— it was tangentially about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In:

RB: I didn’t see that anywhere in the acknowledgments.

JK: Yes,

RB: Shame on you!

JK: It probably should have.

RB: The CFO of Facebook has a book out —Noreen Malone chose to [hilariously]review it through the lens of it being a 140 page book with 7 pages of acknowledgements.

JK: Oh.

RB: So I must compliment you on the brevity and succinctness of your acknowledgements.

JK: I have followed Lean In publicity. I think acknowledgements are terribly important —because I write short stories I am firmly in the less is more camp. I think you don’t have to go on and on about everything that happens in the course of all the years it took to write a book. It’s sufficient to name the most important people.

RB: Jeez, that’s so old school.

JK: I guess.

Jessica Francis Kane holds her new book up to the sky. photo: Robert Birnbaum

Jessica Francis Kane holds her new book up to the sky. photo: Robert Birnbaum

Let me urge you on to my debut dialogue with Ms Kane while you wait for our second tango. There are such riveting tidbits as:

RB: This is a literary book from a well-regarded, small, not-for-profit publisher (Graywolf) that has published many fine writers, so what is going to happen to you?

JFK: [in a small voice] What’s going to happen to me?

RB: You’re kind of in the midst of this new experience.

JFK: The book has only been out three weeks.

RB: Oh I forget—I’ve had an advance copy for months.

JFK: My publication date was the same as Jonathan Franzen’s.

RB: You smothered him.

JFK: Did you see the Boston Phoenix? There is a brief review there that says I “out-Franzened Franzen.”

RB: What does that mean? You turned down Oprah Winfrey and Larry King?

JFK: In terms of telling a traditional narrative—I wish I could quote it to you. Anyway, I am in the thick of it and I feel very honored and lucky. I do. “Kane out-Franzens Franzen in her ability to create a compelling, traditional narrative.”


Jessica Francis Kane by Robert Birnbaum

Jessica Francis Kane by Robert Birnbaum

Currently reading Donnybrook by Frank Bill (Farrar Giroux Straus)

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