Monday, October 27, 2014

Jane Smiley: ‘All you need is for one reader to love your book’

The acclaimed US novelist on literary heavyweights, why she doesn’t like to complain and how her current and former husbands helped her write her new midwestern family saga

Jane Smiley: 'King Lear was a blowhard'.
Jane Smiley: 'King Lear was a blowhard'. Photograph: Mike McGregor
Virtually all you need to know about the novelist Jane Smiley is encrypted on to the dedication page of her new book, Some Luck, which thanks four men for “decades of patience, laughter, insight, information, and assistance”. Who are they, these merry, long-suffering, dedicatees, John, Bill, Steve and Jack? Smiley’s three ex-husbands of course, plus the incumbent. And are they still her friends? Smiley’s infectious laugh punctuates her answer. “Oh yes, they’re all great guys, all easy-going guys, and I’m fond of all of them.” That’s one of the things about her: apparently no hint of darkness. Indeed, at a skinny 6ft 2in, Jane Smiley is something of an honorary “guy” herself, and the more you dig into her creative life you find a woman who wants to conduct every bit of her professional career with the same “easy-going” detachment.

Each one of these men in her life has had a role in Smiley’s latest, daunting project, a trilogy about the US experience of “the Last Hundred Years”, the first volume of which has just been published in America to widespread approval. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, “[Some Luck] simultaneously miniaturises and contextualises three decades of American history by zooming in on one multi-generational midwestern farm family… In this, Smiley’s most commanding novel yet, the medium matches the message. More

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