Episode 460 | Katharine Weber Interview

Today’s author interview is with Katharine Weber, author of Still Life With Monkey.

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“Stark and compelling . . . Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.”―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Katharine Weber’s Still Life With Monkey is a beautifully wrought paean of praise for the ordinary pleasures taken for granted by the able-bodied. In precise and often luminous prose, with intelligence and tenderness, Weber’s latest novel examines the question of what makes a life worth living.”―Washington Post

“A brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with heart.”―Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

“Rich and compelling . . . Her characters are vividly, achingly real, including the tiny, furry one at the novel’s center.”―Ann Packer, author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier

Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who savors the quotidian pleasures in life until a car accident leaves him severely paralyzed and haunted by the death of his young assistant. Now, Duncan isn’t sure what there is left to live for, when every day has become “a broken series of unsuccessful gestures.”

Duncan and his wife, Laura, find themselves in conflict as Duncan’s will to live falters. Laura grows desperate to help him. An art conservator who has her own relationship to the repair of broken things, Laura brings home a highly trained helper monkey―a tufted capuchin named Ottoline―to assist Duncan with basic tasks. Duncan and Laura fall for this sweet, comical, Nutella-gobbling little creature, and Duncan’s life appears to become more tolerable, fuller, and funnier. Yet the question persists: Is it enough?

Katharine Weber is a masterful observer of humanity, and Still Life with Monkey, full of tenderness and melancholy, explores the conflict between the will to live and the desire to die.

Katharine Weber’s first five highly-praised and award-winning novels have made her a book club favorite.

Her new novel and seventh book, STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY (Paul Dry Books), has won advance praise with a starred review from KIRKUS (“Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.),Tayari Jones (“a brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with heart”), Ann Packer (“A rich and compelling meditation on the question of what makes life worth living. Her characters are vividly, achingly real, including the tiny furry one at the novel’s center”), Roxana Robinson (“…great subtlety, tenderness and intelligence,…the beautiful prose we expect from her”), Brian Morton (“Katharine Weber is a magician of a novelist”), and Roger Rosenblatt (“Among the many brilliances of Katharine Weber’s new novel, is the whole idea of a ‘still life.’ Painters saw unnatural stillness as a contradiction in terms, yet containing a mysterious truth. Here, too, mysterious truth – a car accident, a wheelchair (another contradiction), paralysis, and honest and beautifully-drawn people, stopped in midpassage. To this still life comes the capuchin monkey, the service animal who attends the disconnections of the spine, the spirit, and of the species. STILL LIFE is life still―the theme of this original, remarkable book.”)

Katharine’s previous novel, True Confections, the story of a chocolate candy factory in crisis, was published in 2010. Critics raved: “A great American tale” (New York Times Book Review), “Marvelous, a vividly imagined story about love, obsession and betrayal” (Boston Globe), “Katharine Weber is one of the wittiest, most stimulating novelists at work today…wonderful fun and endlessly provocative” (Chicago Tribune),”Succulently inventive” (Washington Post),”Her most delectable novel yet” (L.A. Times).

Her sixth book, a memoir called The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities, published in 2011, won raves from the critics, from Ben Brantley in the New York Times (“Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memories of childhood”) to the Dallas Morning News (“gracefully written, poignant and droll”), the NY Daily News (“Old Scandals, what fun…the core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal”), and the Boston Globe (a masterful memoir of the private world of a very public family”), among others.

Katharine is going into her seventh year as the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. She has previously taught creative writing at Yale University (for eight years), and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the graduate writing program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University for six years. She has taught at various international writing workshops, from the Paris Writers Workshop several summers in a row to the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. In Summer 2018, she is teaching a week-long novel workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland.

All of Katharine’s books have been republished in paperback, some of them in more than one edition, and all are available as e-books. Take note, book groups!

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