In The Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing

Elena Ferrante, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Europa, $21.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-60945-737-2

Four essays illuminate the mind of Ferrante (The Lying Life of Adults) in this dazzling collection. In “Pain and Pen” she recalls writing “neat” and “orderly” stories in elementary school notebooks, and explains that the “discordant clamor” in her head led to her novels of “love and betrayal, dangerous investigations, horrific discoveries, corrupted youth, [and] miserable lives that have a stroke of luck.” “Aquamarine” explores the “passion for realism” that she’s “stubbornly pursued since adolescence,” and recounts the “small discoveries” she found after drafting a cover letter for an “unsatisfying” novel she wrote. “Histories, I” sheds light on the particularly “arduous journey” shared by women writers, and acknowledges how the craft of writing builds on the work of those who came before—Ferrante counts among her influences Ingeborg Bachmann, Emily Dickinson, María Guerra, and Gertrude Stein. In “Dante’s Rib,” Ferrante responds to Dante’s work: “I loved and love Dante’s words but am exhausted by their force.” The collection’s strength comes from Ferrante’s beautiful prose, as well as the fascinating look at where she finds inspiration. The author’s legions of fans are in for a treat. (Mar.)
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