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Elizabeth Mccracken: ‘Creative Writing Is Not like Making a Souffle’

10 March 2019

From The Guardian:

Elizabeth McCracken is a novelist and short-story writer and the author of six books including The Giant’s House, Niagara Falls All Over AgainThunderstruck & Other Stories, and the forthcoming Bowlaway, a family saga set in 20th-century America. She has received many grants and fellowships, including from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and holds the James A Michener chair in creative writing at the University of Texas, Austin.

“Bowling gave you something to think about besides your regrets,”you write in your new novel, in which Bertha, your main character, builds a bowling alley. Where does your interest in bowling come from?
I played bowling a lot as a child. Candlepin bowling is the kind we do in Massachusetts. It seems like this very New England thing to write about. I now live in Texas and was missing New England. It’s a process that keeps you occupied. There’s suspense as you roll the ball and wait to see if you’ll strike, and in that way it feels terrifically interesting and unbelievably boring. There are an endless variety of outcomes. I like the fact that it’s difficult, impossible to perfect, but people are really devoted to it.

It’s fascinating what the bowling alley comes to mean to people in the Bowlaway community, many of whom have experienced loss…
Probably because I used to be a public librarian, I’m interested in public spaces. It would be very hard to be kicked out of a bowling alley for loitering. I like that notion and I really liked the idea of some place that, when it opened, would seem new and exciting, and then, by the end of the novel, would seem like something out of the past. The other good thing about bowling is that it’s a sport that you do by yourself but among people.

. . . .

Genealogy is a powerful theme in Bowlaway. Where did your interest in that come from?
My grandfather McCracken was a genealogist and that was back in the day when you drove around the country and went to cemeteries and were always chasing that particular mystery. I’d been thinking about that and most of the character names in the book were taken out of my grandfather’s genealogies. I was thinking about how genealogy has changed and the recent fascination with doing DNA to see who you’re related to. I’m always amused by the weird pride you can get from discovering you’re related to someone interesting, even though it has nothing to do with you – this new fascination with doing it on a scientific level. Yet, who you are related to by blood seems like the least interesting question about family. It seems hugely significant to people, but it doesn’t seem that significant to me. Love seems more interesting to me than DNA.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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One Comments to “Elizabeth Mccracken: ‘Creative Writing Is Not like Making a Souffle’”

  1. Of course not, you can teach others how to make a souffle …

    … but you can’t make someone creative that doesn’t have a creative bone in their body …

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