“When I write,” says Nicole Krauss, “I’m simply trying to make something I hope at some point will be whole enough to meet readers.” That point has finally arrived for Krauss’s fourth novel, Forest Dark (HarperCollins, Sept.)—her first offering since 2010’s acclaimed Great House—which she says she’s excited to introduce at BookExpo today. “After years of trying to craft something that seems right to me, now the idea of the reader becomes very real,” she says. “I want to see what will happen when it goes out into the world. That’s a great thing, when it’s not mine anymore.”
The light of publication comes after the long tunnel of what Krauss calls the rough, intense, and extreme weeks and months of crafting a work that doesn’t follow a linear narrative. Forest Dark follows the separate but parallel lives of a retiree named Jules Epstein—written in the third person—and a character who bears the name of, and some resemblance to, the author herself and is written in the first person. This structure came together without any advance planning; it’s a method of working that Krauss describes as both spontaneous but also nerve-wracking. “There were many moments when I felt the book would fail or crumble,” she says.
Not surprisingly, she adds, “I feel a tremendous amount of self-inflicted pressure about my own expectations of my work.” Adding to this pressure is her keen desire to do something different with each work she writes. In fact, she’s currently at work on a collection of short stories, a form she relishes because it’s unfamiliar to her, as well as being a challenge. Still, her disparate projects all start in much the same way: “When something gets under my skin,” she says, “if it bothers me enough, it feels like it needs to be attended to and becomes more and more urgent” to write.
For Forest Dark, what clearly got under Krauss’s skin was the concept of what, if any, form a novel should follow. It’s an idea that plays out in her characters as well. “What form should a life take?” she asks. The answer her book provides, she says, has “very much to do with what happens when you break with the old and turn toward the unknown.”
How will readers, old and new, respond? Krauss is eager to find out.
Today, 2:30–3:30 p.m. Nicole Krauss is signing in the Autographing Area, at Table 1.