In a wide-ranging interview, Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley explains how literary characters take on a life of their own, reflects on the representation of the body in literature, and examines her own status as a female novelist emerging in the 1970s. This conversation between Jennifer Terry and Jane Smiley was recorded at the Literary Dolls conference in 2014. [MP3 version]
Although best known for her award-winning novel, A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley has published across a broad spectrum of genres, including campus satire and young adult fiction, and non-fiction studies of Charles Dickens and the American physicist, John Vincent Atanasoff. She begins this podcast by reading from her new trilogy, The Last Hundred Years.
Jane and Jennifer go on to discuss the ways in which women – both in fiction and life – are affected by their bodies; initially perceived according to stereotypes based on their gender or look, her characters often subvert and challenge expectations. They also identify that whilst people in real life are viewed, sometimes prejudicially, from the outside, the novel can allow us to experience the more complicated mental life of others. Jane closes by reflecting on her own status among a generation of female novelists in America who experienced freedoms not obviously available to their British literary counterparts.