Mary Gordon is an award-winning, best-selling, and beloved author. She lives in New York and teaches at Barnard College. Her newest novel, The Love of My Youth, is an evocative examination of old romances, second chances, and the passing of time. It is a novel you might want to linger in, wandering through the beauties of Rome and back in time to the 1960s in the company of two people who were once passionately in love, but are now meeting again for the first time in 40 years.
FOR YOUR CALENDARS: Mary Gordon will be visiting Kepler's on Friday, April 29, at 7:00 PM. Follow this link for more information. Mary's website is here.
Megan Kurashige: Your new novel, The Love of My Youth, follows the reunion of Adam and Miranda, former high-school sweethearts who haven’t spoken to each other in almost 40 years. What drew you to writing about young love from the vantage point of people who have grown older and apart?
Mary Gordon: Partly, of course, the spectacle and process of my own aging. I am 61. I found myself thinking about the question: are we who we were? And also about what time takes from us and gives us.
MK: What was it like to consider such a long span of life with these characters, both together and apart? What was it like to examine so many decades in their company?
MG: One of the questions that I seem to live with and return to is the effect of the 60s on the generation (mine) that was young during it. It was a time of so much radical change happening so rapidly…and a lot of hopes and dreams which were mostly not realized, and often betrayed or abandoned.
MK: The novel takes place in Rome. Why did you choose to take your characters there? Does the city have any personal significance to you?
MG: First of all, I love Rome: it is my great good place. Simply to walk down a street there makes me happy. There is always something wonderful to look at: it is a place where visual pleasure is as available as air. To say nothing of the pleasures of the palate! But it is also a place that makes concrete the passage of time, the effects of time…and so it seemed a good place to discuss issues of time, change, pleasure, beauty.
MK: This is your sixth novel. Has your working process or the way you look at stories and build them changed over the course of your writing career?
MG: As I’ve written more, I think I’ve felt more free to experiment formally: for example, I wanted to include sections in The Love of My Youth that were almost entirely conversation, and juxtapose them with more narrative sections. In terms of process, I don’t think that much has changed. I always need to have an end in mind before I begin…and have always felt free to give that up if it didn’t seem to work. I always write a first draft by hand, but the way the following drafts (usually three or four) have come into the world has changed. My first books were written in the age of the electric typewriter: much sloppier, but I did have the fun of literally cutting up pages and pasting them on to others; this is now done metaphorically, although I always completely re-type each draft.
MK: How can stories change the world?
MG: I don’t know if they will change the world, but if they can, they do what they do because they remind us that everything is probably a lot more complicated than we thought.