All Things At the Edge

At the very end of November last year, I had the honour of sitting down with Anna MacDonald to read from and discuss At the Edge of the Solid World. The virtual event was overseen by my editor at Brio Books, Alice Grundy, and a full recording is now available with an edited transcript below:

Transcript

Alice Grundy

Good evening from me. I know it’s not evening for everybody, but good evening from unceded Ngunnawal country. I’m just outside Canberra this evening, so I’d like to pay my respects to Ngunnawal people who’ve been storytellers here for tens of thousands of years.

I’m Alice, I’m Associate Publisher at Brio, and it’s my extraordinary pleasure to celebrate this evening At the Edge of the Solid World, which has been a little while coming—I think it was maybe three years ago that I first read the manuscript. I’m not an outwardly very emotional person—I’m normally quite restrained, I’m very Anglo in that way—and I remember sitting at my desk sobbing, reading this manuscript, because from the first pages it was so powerful and so moving and I just knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to introduce it to readers. So it’s an extraordinary privilege that Daniel has entrusted Brio with publishing this book; we’re really proud to publish it. And, if I do say so myself, I think we’ve got a beautiful cover and a very handsome typeset. The book is available for you all now in all good bookstores. In fact, I’m not sure if Daniel’s seen physical copies yet—have you?

Daniel Davis Wood

I have; I do have a physical copy, yes. I have multiple physical copies, but I’ve not seen it in a bookstore, unfortunately. But I have seen photos, which is very nice to see—the next-best thing. I have seen it in two states, in bookshops.

Alice Grundy

I can confirm that that it exists in the world. So it’s my pleasure this evening to introduce Anna MacDonald, who’ll be doing the honours. Anna MacDonald is a writer and bookseller from Melbourne. She has reviewed for 3 AM, Sydney Review of Books, and ABR, amongst others, and her new book, A Jealous Tide, is also available in good bookstores now. Thank you so much, Anna.

Anna MacDonald

Such a pleasure, Alice. Thank you.

So, Daniel… At the Edge of the Solid World is a properly epic and expansive novel. Certainly it’s the book that reaches furthest across different times and different places than any other I’ve recently read.

It seems to me that one way of approaching the book is as a determined act of witness on the part of the narrator. Almost the first words he writes are “This is what I remember”; it’s a written testament testimony of one father’s grief and of his experience of a marriage in crisis. But it’s all also much, much more than that, and if the narrator does come to terms with his own situation, he does it by a deep, imaginative and properly felt engagement with other grieving fathers, some of whom are historical—like Francis James Child and Abraham Lincoln, who we’ll hear about in a moment—while others are invented.

Each of these fathers is connected somehow, and often by direct personal experience, to a particular war or other violent historical event. You manage, in less than five hundred pages, to canvas the Bosnian War, Fallujah, the Highland Clearances, the civil wars in Lebanon and Syria, the penal system in Van Diemen’s Land—and I think the spectre of colonial violence in Australia is there from early on in the novel, too. Also: the dispossession of the Celts during the Roman invasion of Britain, the American Civil War, the slave trade, the first stages of moving towards nuclear weaponry, the Holocaust, and more…

The scope and the ambition of the novel are remarkable; I’m in awe. But what’s even more remarkable—magnificently so—is that you’re able to pull it off so seamlessly. And until the point in the novel that you’re going to read in a little while—which comes from the Abraham Lincoln section—I was thinking, quite lazily now, of the different narrative threads as interwoven. But it’s very easy to reach for words that are just there, that are often used these days to describe a novel that has various narratives in it.

So I think more and more now of these [multiple narratives] as kind of folded into and over one another. It’s almost as if the narrator is has slipped inside the skin of some of the characters that he’s imagining at points, and as if all of the events from the Roman invasion to the death of the narrator’s child are happening all at once and at the same time. What I really want to know is how you did it. Where did the book begin and how did you settle upon the narrative structure?

Daniel Davis Wood

Where did the book begin? I’ve been collecting material—no, I don’t want to say collecting. I’ve been keeping material that I thought I might work with for a long time. So a lot of what’s written in here, when there’s a specific time stamp for the narrator meeting somebody or some sort of event—mostly those time stamps are pretty accurate.

The earliest material goes back to 2003. That was the first time I visited the Port Arthur historical site and saw the memorial. Although that comes late in the book, that’s one of the first events chronologically, and I went back there, to Port Arthur, in 2009 or 2010. Then there’s a section of the book where the narrator meets a soldier, a very terribly wounded soldier, at the time that the Iraq War is unfolding, particularly in Fallujah, and large sections of that are true. The narrator is convalescing in the north of Scotland, the soldier lives nearby—that’s a pretty accurate setup for something that I did experience at that time, so I guess that would be 2005 or thereabouts. All that material and the material afterwards—the first encounters with Child and the Child Ballads—all that happened the way the narrator says, at the time that it happened. So it’s been sticking with me—bits and pieces—for, gee, I feel really old now: almost twenty years. That’s not how I thought of it when I started writing, but that’s where the stuff of the book begins.

The writing itself began also where the writing begins for the narrator, which is towards the end of 2015. He says, near the end of the book, that one of the things that triggers him to do what he does and to recount this story is the picture of a young boy whose name was Alan Kurdi. He was a refugee from Syria who died in the Mediterranean and washed up on a beach in Greece [edit: Turkey]. I’m sure we all remember this particular photograph.

It was around then, I guess, that I did begin writing the book, partly because of that—because when I saw that picture, it felt like the impetus to finally put pen to paper on this thing that I knew was brewing and had the scope you spoke of—and also because around that time, just by chance, that’s when … I don’t want to say the voice came to me, but I started feeling the rhythms of the book, the way the narrator speaks, the way he puts sentences together. All that started coalescing. So that’s when the book itself became the book that it is, and I brought in all this material. It felt like there was a shape coming, that needed this stuff from 2003 and 2005 that I’d been hoping to find a form for, for so long—and had tried in various shorter forms that didn’t work—and it finally all came in.

But you’re right to say I didn’t want it to be intertwined, where you get the alternating sort of narratives of one character and then another. I like the way you put it, that it’s as if the narrator is stepping into the skin of some of these characters. In fact, I think he says something to that effect; when he’s first discussing a character called Demirović, he says that it’s like I stepped into him and he was like a puppet that I was wearing… So that concept of having layers—it’s more like layers, like or something superimposed on top of something superimposed on top of something superimposed, unfolding oftentimes simultaneously—that, including in the Lincoln chapter, is as if the narrator is becoming this character, like he’s actually transforming into someone in a historical moment at the same time that he is in his own moment. Particularly in that chapter, because—you referred to Abraham Lincoln, but that name actually doesn’t appear in the book except in the title of the section. Otherwise, he’s referred to just as “the man at the desk.” It’s Lincoln at his desk writing the Gettysburg Address, but it’s the narrator at his desk as well—he is “the man at the desk”; they’re the same person. So, you know, it’s a reconstruction that the narrator is wearing at the same time as he’s wearing all these others…

Anna MacDonald

One of the things that really struck me was this question of where a person begins and ends, which kept coming back to me again and again and again in different ways. And it came to me, I suppose, through that way of slipping on the skin of another character as the narrator does. But also—I don’t want to give too much away for people who haven’t read the book—but the body is extremely important in this novel. There’s a kind of interrogation. Does the body contain the person, or is the person also shaped—or only shaped—by cultural, social, historical context? Was that something you were thinking about?

Daniel Davis Wood

Definitely, and from a few different angles. I started writing the book when it was a really terrible time for people, culturally. It was the end of 2015, the Trump campaign was in full swing—this was not going very well. Then we had 2016; I was over here in Britain, we had Brexit, we had the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo and all of this stuff that for literary people—for people who are reading a lot—really foregrounded this question of the ownership of narratives. Whose stories belong to whom and who gets to tell those stories?

I’ve followed all those discussions really closely, and I was then and still am of two minds about almost every single point in them. But one of the things that I’ve ended up feeling very strongly—partly for very personal reasons, but also just philosophically—is that I don’t think a single body, a single person’s body, can own a narrative. I think bodies are intermingled in really complex ways, through lots of different agents—social, cultural, and so on; also physical—so that every story is bound up with other stories and other bodies, and therefore the telling of any story is from the very beginning an ethical compromise.

It’s a dirty act. It’s filthy, ethically—particularly if the foundation of our ethics is basically the Kantian thing. You have to treat other people as ends-in-themselves, not as a means-to-an-end. Don’t instrumentalise other people; don’t use them for your purposes. They are other people. You have to respect that. But you cannot tell a story using the first-person voice without instrumentalising other people. They are literally supporting figures in your narrative. It doesn’t matter if you are coming from a position of virtue, where you are trying to tell the story of someone who doesn’t get to tell their stories often or you’re trying to reclaim agency for somebody. You’re doing something really important and noble, I think, but it’s still ethically dirty; you’re still violating that principle of treating other people as ends-in-themselves. You just can’t avoid that in storytelling.

So that was how I tried to think of this intermingling. We’re all so bound up in each other’s stories that to tell any one is to tug on a thread of a web that’s connected to so many others that they all have to move at the same time. When you tell one, you’re also automatically telling another even if you don’t want to be. That means, yeah, being another person, in a way. And there are better and worse ways to write, I suppose, about other people like that. There are a million ways; lots of different writers are doing really innovative things. I think particularly of Alexis Wright, who’s doing some amazing stuff with ventriloquism, versus someone like Dave Eggers, who does probably a more questionable job. I wanted to try a different path, but I think it’s important as well to say that [At the Edge of the Solid World] is a first-person narrative, quite explicitly, and I actually regard it as one person’s story—one person who is not telling the stories of other people, but telling the stories of projections of himself that are informed by other people. That’s the way I went about it.

Anna MacDonald

Why don’t we pull one of the threads and you can read?

Daniel Davis Wood

Okay. You very kindly gave me the suggestion that I should read this section from the Lincoln chapter. Just for a bit of context, there’s a device in the book that helps the narrator switch—or that signals that the narrator is going to switch—between different places and personas. That device comes from the section on Francis James Child, where there’s a discussion of what are called “thin places.” This is a really old concept, actually, of a place where the fabric between one world and another world kind of runs thin, and you can cross over into another realm. It’s like a portal—but where it typically was believed to happen in the Celtic culture that the narrator eventually gets to, is where there’s water running hard or fast, like a stream or a pool or something like that. So whenever you see that in the book—that there’s water coming—you know something’s going to happen.

In this particular section, the narrator is sitting in his house in the Swiss Alps. It’s winter, but the snow is melting; there’s a warm wind and he’s sitting in front of a computer watching some funerals of some children unfold in Sydney. He has also just been listening to one of the Child Ballads, called ‘Tam Lin,’ which takes place in Scotland, and he has also recalled an incident at the school that he works at, which leads him to relive Abraham Lincoln’s writing of the Gettysburg Address. So all three of those threads are, as you’ll see, all here.

[READING]

Anna MacDonald

There’s so much to unpack just in those couple of pages, Daniel. I guess one of the things that really struck me, and which I really loved about the novel, is the way you allow every character to be properly human and complexly human.

Demirović and the other parents in that section are burying their children as a result of a kind of horrific act of violence, but still the narrator attempts to understand what the motivation for that violence might be. There’s a wonderful phrase he uses—something like “the subterranean why”—and it seems to me that this sense of trying to understand this thing that storytelling can do is also completely at odds with the way that we so often get stories these days, which is also captured in that passage. That’s via media—the constant kind of online updates, constant refresh, and just a grasping, greedy attempt to get as much footage, as many clicks, as possible. Was that a conscious decision, to fight against that way of absorbing information?

Daniel Davis Wood

Definitely. You know, it’s a real epistemological problem that I just—I hate. I’m interested in the way that people come to formulate the judgments they formulate about other people, about any kind of situation. How do they gather the information that lends itself to a particular judgment? I mean, that’s something that I’ve been writing about for more than a decade now, and one of the things that’s consistent across all the areas that I’ve looked into is that haste and expedience always—almost always—lead to really bad stories. Really bad.

When I say “stories,” I mean an explanation of cause and effect. “Why did some person do this? Oh, it’s because of x, y, z.” The way that social media in particular—well, social media today but also social media from decades past… I’m thinking of things like talk radio, which has been around forever. It’s another form of social media, right? It’s Twitter on air. Anyway, the way that haste and expedience come out is sort of like: “Why did somebody do something [awful, terrible, criminal]? Oh, it’s because they are this type of person. This is the person that they are. It’s not because of, you know, certain factors. It’s because there’s something innate to that person, that made them do this thing.” And the follow-on from that, for listeners or for readers or whoever, is: “Because they are that type of person, and I am not that type of person, I am not capable of what they have just done.”

I just—I profoundly disagree with that, and I think the narrator clearly disagrees with that as well. Part of the thought process of making this a conscious [element of the book] was that, when people are reading literature—particularly literary fiction—they often tell themselves the opposite story about themselves. We have this assumption that literary fiction is a humanist thing—it’s a humanist discipline in the academy, it’s in the humanities—and we say that it has a humanising influence. In saying that, we’re going way, way back to a really ancient tradition. It was the Roman poet Terence who kind of formulated humanism with the idea that “Because I am human, nothing human is alien to me.” [In other words:] “I can understand anything human.”

The way this plays out in literary fiction is often: somebody tells their story, they tell it in detail, it’s an experience very different from mine, it might be quite a harrowing experience that I have no connection to—but if they tell it in sufficient detail, I have the capacity to empathise and sympathise and I can understand their story because “nothing human is alien to me.” It’s all I have, that capability of understanding. But I think the opposite is true, too, which is: if you think of the very worst that people can do, that is also a human capacity. And I think that’s in all of us, actually; I think that what separates any of us from anyone we might condemn because they’re “that sort of person” is just luck. It’s nothing innate. It’s luck of genetics, it’s luck of birth or circumstance, it’s luck of any number of factors, but that is all it is. The very worst that we as a species are capable of is there in every single one of us.

So the thought process was kind of: “Okay, if you go the hasty route and you condemn people for what they do because they’re a different type of person, that’s plainly wrong. But if you go the leisurely route and you say, ‘Well, sufficient understanding of certain types of people is within me,’ that’s only half the story.” And because it’s only half, it’s a bit of a false order. It’s a bit of a lie. For me, it’s a self-delusion. So I wanted to still work within humanism, but to open up that second half of it. That takes real leisure and space and whatever the opposite of haste is: a real extension of the principle of charity and goodwill to actually understand what it is that has led someone to do something [apparently inexplicable] and to not—as the narrator puts it, to not ask “why?” or “who is this person?” or “why did they do this?” in a rhetorical sense, just in order to answer the hasty narrative, but to really ask “why?” Like, “who is this person? what have they gone through? why did this happen?” And: “how far differently would I act if I had been in exactly the same circumstances?” I don’t think it’s that far differently at all, for most of us.

Anna MacDonald

Well, I’ll come to another reading in a moment, but I just want to ask one more question before then. For those of you who are listening, when Daniel and I were working out how we’d do this, I said I’d ask one big question at the beginning and then we could unpack things, but I realised when I was sitting down to get ready for this evening: all my questions are big, and I think that’s because the book demands that of us, too, that we properly interrogate what we’re capable of as well as the characters who are represented here. So brace yourself for another big question.

While I was reading At the Edge of the Solid World, I found myself thinking quite a lot about W.G. Sebald. I’m not sure if he was a direct influence, and there are definitely important ways that I think this novel is quite different from his prose narratives, but there are also commonalities—including, I think, a consideration of the difficulties and the responsibilities associated with both representation and memorialisation. I’m thinking especially, I suppose, of the Port Arthur chapter, in terms of the kind of complications of memorialising an event, and in one of Sebald’s essays on an “attempt at restitution.” Sebald poses the question: what is literature good for? And he writes: perhaps only to help us remember, and teach us to understand, that some strange connections cannot be explained by a causal logic. I’m wondering what you think literature is good for.

Daniel Davis Wood

First of all, the Sebald essay—in particular the line about restitution—is something that, yeah, has stuck with me for a very long time, at least ten years. I think it’s a really powerful essay—it’s On the Natural History of Destruction, where that appears?—and I think, yeah, I would agree with that.

But I would agree that that’s part of what literature is good for. For me there’s a more primal question that’s really different from anything that Sebald would say, maybe even totally at odds with anything that Sebald would say, and it’s this. At bottom, I’m an existentialist: I have a very limited life span, I don’t know when I’m going to die, and so I have to think really, really carefully about how I’m going to use my time. And I don’t think that reading a work of literature, for me—that the possibility of that restitution is enough to earn [the work] the time and attention it would take from me. I guess I’m kind of solipsistic and selfish in that way. I mean, it’s nice if I can get that [sense of restitution] from it, but that’s not the reason to start [reading] and to continue. Nor is the reason to start and continue something like, you know, because a novel “says something about our times.” I hope my book does do that, but I don’t think that’s enough reason for anyone really to pick it up and keep reading. I wouldn’t wish that upon them. So, for me, the only thing that has that force, to propel me to give my time to [a work of literature], is the experience itself—the aesthetic experience of reading. Unless I’m seeking to be informed about a particular issue and I’m into non-fiction, for fiction and literary essays it’s about aesthetics for me.

That means that I’m going to give [the work] a quantity of my time, in this case quite a large quantity of my time. And in the time that I’m giving it, it has to be taking me through a certain experience of sensibility. It can be anything—what that experience is, is anything—but it has to be controlled and articulated over a length of pages that equals this block of time, so that I can look back on it that way. And that was my first intention in writing the book. That was the first thing and the ultimate thing. All the other stuff—the emotional journey and the commentary—is important, really important, but not primary. It comes in as a secondary thing, or an ancillary thing to the aesthetic experience that I hope the book is giving the reader—as I hope any book is going to give to me when I read. Certainly I would struggle to think of any other novel I know that has a similar kind of aesthetic effect, so…

Anna MacDonald

So, yes, we each have a limited life span, and we don’t know how long that will be, and we have to use our time wisely. But we have an afterlife of sorts, which is perhaps a good time to move into your next reading.

Daniel Davis Wood

That was a lovely segue.

So this comes from a very different section of the book. The setup is that the narrator works at a school and he has done something to offend some students. Now he has to speak to them about what he’s done and in the course of that he meets a student who connects him with an actual artifact from a real man, Enrico Fermi, who I think is really under-known. Fermi was one of the most incredible figures of the twentieth century; he’s essentially the man who developed the atomic bomb, among other things. The calculations that went into the Manhattan Project—he was the mathematical brains behind it all. But he was an Italian man married to a woman who was Jewish, and their children were Jewish too; and as the antisemitic laws in Italy came into effect in the 1930s, they fled [the country]. Their opportunity to flee was that Fermi was invited to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics. So first they fled Italy and then they fled to America. This is a section where one of the students tells the narrator about [Fermi] and about the kind of calculations that Fermi is now known for.

[READING]

Anna MacDonald

This image completely floored me. I had never heard about that breathing in, that I was every day breathing in some of Caesar’s last breath.

Daniel Davis Wood

Everyone’s.

Anna MacDonald

And everyone else’s. I’m happier about some than others, I have to say. So we’ve got this image where all of us still are breathing the particles of Caesar’s last breath, and it becomes increasingly important as the novel progresses from this point. There’s a beautiful kind of connected topographical realisation of this idea, too, right at the end of the novel, when the narrator imagines a topographical umbilical cord connecting the Middle East, the Alps, Scotland—all of these places that are key to the narrative.

So we all breathe the same air, we all live on the same Earth, we’re all connected in this way. But also genuine connection is complicated and the novel opens with two epigraphs: one from Virginia Woolf about the illusion of a common language, the difficulty of knowing and understanding ourselves, let alone anybody else, and one from John Berger about the role of imagination and stories and how they help us make sense of those events which Berger says outstrip our vocabulary. That kind of juxtaposition—you know, when I got to the end and I remembered the beginning, I thought: Is that connection of breath and Earth a meaningful one? Can we have it both ways? Can we be connected in this way and also struggle to connect on a more kind of emotional or cerebral kind of way?

Daniel Davis Wood

Uh… yes. Yes, we can have it both ways. Yes.

I think perhaps the Virginia Woolf epigraph illustrates that in a better sense than the Berger one. The idea is that the narrator is having this experience—the experience of the loss of a child—but he has a double-bind. His double-bind is that [in order] to manage this experience, to not completely rupture his life and his sense of self, he goes looking for models of people who have been through a similar experience—he is searching them out, doing the Woolf thing of looking for someone who has had the same experience—but at the same time he doesn’t want that, because if the experience is not entirely unique to him, then it loses some of its preciousness and he thinks this has implications for how much love he felt for his child.

The Berger epigraph is about: how can I communicate this experience? I can’t—I don’t have the words for this experience, the language doesn’t have the words for this experience, the whole body of the English language doesn’t have them—so I have to tell a story in order to convey something that is lacking a word. Okay, what story do I tell? That’s when he goes off and searches for these other stories, all of these men who have something [through which] they can give [him] the language to convey something about his experience.

So that’s—that is having it both ways, right? At the end of the day, there’s nobody [in this book] except the narrator. It is his story. It is his voice and all of the others are projections or constructions of him, or reconstructions. They’re not commensurate with the actual historical figures or even the actual contemporary figures, because he has such a partial view of them. They are him. But the parts that he’s drawing from their stories, in order to find the language that Berger is asking us to find, are connections [to his experience]. So, yeah, I guess that’s splitting the difference, in a way. And I think that I and the narrator would not entirely agree with either Woolf or Berger, and end up, as you’ve pointed out, in a different place, maybe somewhere that’s triangulating a little bit.

Anna MacDonald

Well, that was my last question. I don’t know if there are other questions that Alice wanted to take. That was fabulous, Daniel, too, by the way. Thank you.

Alice Grundy

I’ve got more, yeah. We only have a few more minutes, but I just wanted to butt in with a couple of comments of my own, if you’ll forgive me.

Number one is, I’m going to paraphrase Kerryn Goldsworthy here where she says that your book is unusual in that the story and the writing are of equal sophistication and are executed equally beautifully. I agree with that. It is as you’ve hinted, and as the size of the book would suggest, quite long; but, for a reader, and for me, it certainly didn’t feel long because there’s this compulsive quality to the prose, a rhythm which one doesn’t generally expect in novels these days. The rhythm of the book is really powerful. And I hadn’t thought of the book explicitly in terms of existentialism but I think I’m also at heart an existentialist, so that’s another reason why I liked it.

One thing I wanted to pick up on from the first question was about the folding of the stories on top of each other. The original title for the book, which is good from a sort of artistic perspective but not as good from a market perspective, was Winter Fugue, so there was this idea of the fugal nature. So with the poetry and the rhythms of the prose and then the idea of a fugue—I mean, are you musical, Daniel?

Daniel Davis Wood

Oh, God. No. And I was really grateful that Anna didn’t ask me to read one of the sections that has lyrics in it, because then there would have been a mass exodus as I started singing. No, not musical.

But yes, it was originally called Winter Fugue. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that the novel took the form of the fugue. So, in music, the form of the fugue is: you have one voice at the start that states a theme—that’s usually how it’s put—one voice sings something and then you have other voices that provide variations on this one thing, and they intertwine but they also overlap at points, and sometimes they’re singing at the same time, sometimes not at the same time… So, yeah, that was a guiding metaphor for structuring the book. But I think ultimately [the book] breaks away from that metaphor in the multi-layering, and the thing that a musical fugue can’t really do: in the book, you’ll have three or four layers of narrative that are then pointing backwards in time, and actually taking you back to something that you’ve been through already, maybe from a different perspective and then coming back [to the jumping-off point]. I would say that’s probably not possible in music.

The other thing is that Winter Fugue was sort of a jokey title, or an in-jokey title, or something more personal. There’s a really lovely story called ‘Spring Fugue’ by Harold Brodkey, which is about virtually nothing. It’s an afternoon in the life of a couple. The wife goes to work, the husband is at home, he’s preparing food, and he cuts his thumb—he slices his thumb and he has to go to hospital. That’s all it is, but it’s the start of spring and he’s in sort of this fugue state. That’s the idea. And just wanting to write something like that provided something to [At the Edge of the Solid World]—even though it’s a short story, five pages, compared to five hundred—because the way [Brodkey’s narrator] does it is, when he cuts his thumb, he says, “I was slicing an Israeli tomato and thinking of Super Tuesday two years ago, and that’s when I did it.” And I just thought, “Yes! That’s it! That’s the thing.”

I mean, so often in these in narratives of marital discord, it’s a very domestic narrative and all the acrimony is about what happens between husband and wife within their four walls. But I don’t think that’s really how things work in life. I don’t think [my] narrator does, either. My mood is so strongly conditioned by what I’m thinking about, which could be anything from history, from the news, from just my mind drifting—all of that affects how I feel at any one moment, and then how I’m going to respond to anything that comes in front of me. I just really like that randomness that Brodkey throws in, in a really quiet moment, so this book is—yeah, you’ll see there’s lots of drinking tea and making toast and people are really angry at each other because of what they’ve seen on the news or just overheard, or something like that, and that has repercussions for their relationships. To me, that’s kind of how it really works, and I liked that Brodkey did it, so that was also part of the title thing.

Alice Grundy

And arguably more so now than it has been in the past, because of the way our phones bring all kinds of news into our hands, into our heads, throughout the day.

Daniel Davis Wood

And distinctly personalised. Like, you’re not on the same page—you’re clearly not on the same page as the person sitting next to you anymore, really.

Alice Grundy

Yes, and somehow marriages—some marriages—survive, at least.

Well, Anna, thank you so much for your beautiful hosting and excellent questions. I’m really very thrilled with this book, and that it’s getting into the hands of readers and reviewers who are seeing the same sorts of extraordinary things in it that first inspired me. So congratulations, Daniel, and I feel as though it’s evident from reading the book that it has been a huge amount of thinking and ethical wrangling, and care at the word level, at the sentence level, at the paragraph level, at the page level—there’s been a great deal of care and I think the reader can see that.

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