Just to remind you of the conversation I posted on yesterday. As of 5 EDT I am talking with Russ Rymer about his new novel, Paris Twilight.
Russ is a fine writer — his stuff has been published in all the good places, or at least all those starting with the letter “N”: New Yorker, The New York Times, National Geographic. He’s written a couple of non-fiction books before this one both good, but with Paris Twilight I think he’s produced a work at the next level, art in prose.
Not to give away spoilers, but the story turns on what Matilde Anselm, professor of cardiac anesthesiology, discovers when she is called to Paris in 1990 just as the first Gulf War is getting under way. She’s there to serve as part of a heart transplant team for an operation that gets her ethical antennae twitching — where, in the end, is the needed heart going to come from. The story deepens from there, bringing the Spanish Civil War’s horrors, and those of the Nazi occupation of Paris into the present. As the intricate plot works its way through Matilde, one constant is the way in which the mysteries as well as the rigorous practice of anesthesiology frame her questions, her concerns, her changing understanding of her own life.
The book really is a wonderful novel, full of all the rewards of fiction — great plot action, emotional exploration, ideas all expressed in and through human beings so fully realized that it comes as a surprise when you remember that they don’t actually exist. But what makes this so sweet to me, from my peculiar perch, is the vein of science and hard thinking about what a life in science can tell you about life, full stop, that runs through the work, that makes it go.
I’ve got a lot to ask Russ — and having heard him give a reading last night, with his almost eerie account of how Matilde accosted him on the street and took the role of author right out of his hands, I’m looking forward to learning about practice of writing as well as about what Russ has written.
Tune in: on the web.
Image: Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1888