Forever Unread: Thoughts for Valentine's Day

This originally appeared in Lost in Romance, 2012. 

A batch of submissions sits on the editor’s desk at Forever Unread. Among them is a well-plotted short story in which a man and woman, after a number of mysterious events, sip brandy at the Algonquin Hotel. Alongside it is another story in which two men, after any number of disgusting events, curse at one another at a dirty diner.
The ever-so-educated literary magazine editor reads both of these – one with pronounced boredom, the other with genuine gusto. It’s the second piece that excites him. To the cursing scribe, he gushes, “It’s edgy and gritty. It takes us to new places.”
To the other author (who naturally is an authoress), he writes, “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, this is not for us. You might consider submitting this to a romance genre publication.”
The romance author, having surveyed the contents of Forever Unread, is philosophical. She has no plans to write about dirty diners, street fights or toilets. Most definitely she wishes to avoid toilets.
She meets her dear friend, Dr. Jill Evans, esteemed head of the literature department at a prestigious university. “Are vomit and pee-pee the new literary status symbols?” the author wants to know—for she is curious about the editorial fascination with bodily excretions.
“People need things to be real,” opines the professor, who herself edits a magazine called Literary Ammonia. “Vomit is real.”

“I want magic,” our author admits. “I like landscape paintings. I like Chopin and Faure. I like movies like Casablanca, books like Green Mansions.”

“Romance has sappy Hallmark card happy endings,” Jill sighs.

The author is annoyed, but only mildly. “Casablanca doesn’t have a sappy ending--neither does Green Mansions. A lot of romance is sad, it’s just not ugly.”
Jill opens a bottle of fine Cabernet. “Life’s dark.” (The author suspects that Jill’s sole contact with the Dark Side comes from HBO, but she remains wisely silent.)
“Sewers aren’t any more real than parks. Anyway, you don’t lead a gritty life,” the author replies, sipping wine and admiring the view. “Take Laurie Colwin—she writes about women I might know. She writes about women who have affairs, but not because they’re unhappy. They have affairs because their life lacks… magic.”
Jill immediately writes the name, Laurie Colwin (Find her books now). “Any other suggestions, I mean for just guilty pleasure reading?” she asks, rather eagerly.
The author lists her favorites with delight. Nancy Lemann, whose dizzy Southern girls long for loony men and sometimes get them, but only sometimes; the conjurer of all things Gallic, Dianne Johnson with her dazzling array of schemers, sophisticates and naives; Cathleen Schine whose heroines bump into love like Buster Keaton in a fast-paced chase scene; and recently romantic Allegra Goodman whose heroine in The Cookbook Collector charms without effort.

“They are stories of love – it’s sometimes flawed and it’s often brief – and they’re dreamers, even if the dreams don’t come true,” the author concludes. “Sure, promises get broken and kisses are fleeting, but without them, life’s pretty humdrum.”
Jill Evans looks out of her window and notices how beautiful Central Park is, when seen at twilight—and how quickly the light changes. “Dreams,” she repeats, and wonders where her girlhood copy of Green Mansions might be.
The next day finds Dr. Jill Evans immersed in the books of Laurie Colwin-- a writer who died as young as Jane Austen and whose spirit was as generous. Jill opens Goodbye without Leaving and swoons along with the heroine when Len first appears—and Jill feels a pit in her stomach when the two part—and a wish that the book would go on.
Soon Jill is seduced by Nancy Lemann’s Lives of the Saints. She finds herself yearning for the French Quarter in New Orleans, jazz, and hot drunken nights. She is heartsick to learn that many of Nancy Lemann novels are out of print but consoles herself by re-reading The Fiery Pantheon.
To the author’s amusement, Dr. Jill Evan’s undergraduate syllabus now includes Barbara Pym’s  A Glass of Blessings Grateful undergraduates have nominated Jill as Teacher of the Year—and many young women are seen, on park benches, reading and laughing at Pym’s Excellent Women.
The romance author cannot help but notice that the latest copy of Forever Unread sits on Jill’s desk – unopened and, yes, forever unread.

For Valentine's Day: Strange Courtships FREE on Kindle

Tomorrow, I will post another romantic tale, but for today:  if you would like a Kindle Edition of STRANGE COURTSHIPS, it's free on Amazon.

And on a romantic note, my husband designed this beautiful cover for me.

Click HERE  to download for free.  Please let me know which story you like best (and all Amazon reviews are greatly appreciated.)


No Old-Fashioned Romance
Carla Sarett
(This story first appeared in The Medulla Review)
For my mother, always
To my mother, the characters in novels were as real as you or I.  She remembered every detail about them, the way they spoke and the way they dressed, as if she had met them yesterday on one of her many long walks.  She spoke of them as if they lived in her own house which, in a way, they did.
But she was unusual in her approach, to say the least.  My mother focused on the minor characters, the ones whom literary critical often ignore, the characters who seem to make comic points or add texture to the story.  For her, War and Peace was "really" about the orphan Sonia-- “Sonia’s is the real tragedy.  Natasha gets what she wants, but Sonia has to work as a maid to that awful religious horror, Princess Mary.”  My mother always grieved for Sonia.
Decades after she’d read a novel, my mother could recall specific scenes and descriptions as I never could.  I suppose that explains why later on, I often told her stories drawn from my own life. 
One of those stories concerned a certain Cathleen Carter and her family. Cathleen was a woman of grave demeanor who worked in my small office building.  Like many consultants, she called herself a group, The Carter Group.  I believe that she consulted on environmental crises, which have might have accounted for her earnestness.  In her tiny way, Cathleen was pretty with intense blue eyes and a pixie-style haircut. 
Cathleen and her husband had two daughters: one from her husband's first marriage named Muriel, and the other from her own first marriage, named Marianna.  I confess that I often got the daughters mixed up because their names sounded similar.  
Both Cathleen and her husband had been married to Jews: in her case, a neurotic scientist, in his case, a sarcastic writer.  These marriages had ended bitterly, but now the divorced parents were forced to share the daughters.
Cathleen's daughter divided her week between her “real” father and Cathleen.  Even so, the girl consumed, or appeared to consume, Cathleen’s every waking hour.  For Cathleen, this daughter—Marianna--was a mystery of tears, whims and tantrums.  
I held tiny Cathleen's shoulders. “Your daughter’s just a teen, teens are moody.  I was a sad sack of a teen myself--it broke my mother's heart.  Besides, Marianna is a daughter anyone would be proud of, what are you worried about?” 
Because to me, you see, the girl was perfect, sparkling and filled with life.  I had seen her once with her mother-- a Viking girl, towering over her tiny mother, dressed in blue jeans and a pink tee with a little red heart.  
Cathleen explained.  She wanted her daughter to be engaged with “meaningful” community activities, Model U.N., working in the community, studying voice, learning about music.  And her daughter did those things. 
But, Marianna had a mind of her own.  She wanted to become a fashion designer, work for a clothing company like Anthropologie and perhaps one day have her own clothing line. Cathleen admitted that the girl had done well at a summer fashion school-- her designs had been singled out. 
Still, Cathleen viewed her daughter’s dreams as pipe-dreams.  She wanted Marianna to have a profession filled, as Cathleen put it, "with dignity."  Cathleen had no sympathy for a life devoted to style—to her, it meant nothing at all.  She herself wore clothes from a decade or so ago, with ungainly shoulder-pads. 
So the daughter went on with the life that Cathleen had organized—the model U.N., community leadership and so on.  And there was school-work--calculus, history, literature-- all subjects which the other daughter, Muriel, excelled at. Marianna fell behind in school.  Even though she worked past midnight, she failed to finish her homework –and teachers complained.  She became sick, angry at her mother.
The Jewish scientist father complained that Cathleen pushed the girl too hard.  “Leave her alone,” he said.  
I told my mother about Cathleen, her two husbands, the two daughters, how the histories and names confused me.  I spoke mostly about Marianna, Cathleen's daughter—my mother and I both loved fashion. 
My mother, though, was eager to hear about the other daughter. “What is with the other girl, Muriel?  What’s happening with Muriel?”
Muriel was fine, I said, an honors students, about four years older than Marianna.  In pictures, she appeared dark and beautiful.  I believed she lived, most of the time, with her sarcastic mother, who took her daughter’s success for granted.   I told my mother, “No one has to worry about Muriel.”
From that point on, my mother worried only about Muriel.  She felt someone had to care what happened to Muriel, even if her father and her step-mother and her sarcastic mother and I did not.  
“There's something wrong there,” my mother said.
A year passed, and things had improved for Cathleen and her daughter.   They had gone to a holistic spa in Arizona, just the two of them, where they attended meditation courses. Later that year, they took a mother-daughter weekend on Cape Cod where Marianna had held her hand and said I love you, Mom.  Cathleen looked overjoyed as she told of this -- as if it were a rare event. 
“Perhaps it was,” said my mother. 
  By this time, I learned, Muriel had entered college, not the Ivy League college she had aimed for but a small school down South.  Muriel's sarcastic mother was unable to conceal her disappointment.  At first, Muriel was crushed, but she recovered and now was happy, popular—and, Cathleen told me, made Dean's List. 
“That’s Cathleen’s version,” my mother said. 
I started to piece together a different narrative about Muriel.
At her Southern college, Muriel had become socially ambitious.   She sensed that her sarcastic brilliant mother looked down on her.  But Muriel felt she could outshine her mother on a social level. She joined a sorority that, in earlier days, did not accept Jewish girls.  She dressed down in the way wealthy college girls do, wearing shorts to fancy restaurants just to show how little it mattered.  She wheedled her father into buying her expensive jewelry for Christmas, jewelry he never bought for either of his wives—and even made him pay for trips to Europe, ski vacations in Switzerland. 
  Around that time, Muriel started dating a boy from a nearby college.  His name was Richard Madden, and he was considered a catch, from a prominent family.  Soon, Richard introduced Muriel to everyone in his social circle.  When she came home, Muriel showed pictures of Richard to everyone so they could see how successful her college years were. 
It was an old-fashioned kind of romance, Muriel said.    
I told my mother that Muriel was now in love.  “It’s like an old-fashioned romance,” I repeated, as if brainwashed.  
My mother was completely unimpressed.  “Mark my words,” she told me. “This is no old fashioned romance.”
  Over the next months, I learned that Muriel's real mother, the writer, was to be married again in March, in Washington, D.C., which was not far from Muriel's college in Virginia.  It was to be a surprisingly grand wedding, for a second wedding, with hundreds of guests.
The timing of the wedding was inconvenient, right before college mid-terms. Muriel didn't expect Richard to accompany her, but of course, she hoped. Richard insisted he needed to be there, just to support Muriel.   
Muriel told her father and Cathleen, “Richard will do anything to please me.  That’s the kind of man he is.” 
Muriel spent days searching for the perfect dress—and when she found an amazing pale blue gown trimmed with a tiny band of white lace, she marveled.  She e-mailed an image of herself in the dress to her step-sister—she even swept up her hair to reveal her diamond earrings.
Marianna created a beautiful crystal bracelet to go with it.  “You’ll be more beautiful than any one there,” she told her step-sister.  
The day before the wedding, Richard did not call and he did not return any of Muriel’s many messages and e-mails.  Muriel even called local hospitals, just in case he had been in an accident.  She waited all night for his call.  
Early the next morning, Muriel called Richard’s parents—it was awkward by that time, but she didn’t know what else to do.  Richard took the call.  He was angry at the intrusion, especially at his parents’ home.  He told her that he had no time to speak, and besides, she didn’t deserve it. She asked about the wedding--she had no other date.  He said he did not owe her an explanation and hung up.  He didn’t pick up when she called again.  He was done with her.
Muriel entered alone in her pale blue dress. At dinner, she sat next to an empty seat.  She made excuses but she knew no one, especially her sarcastic mother, believed her.  Several times, she checked her voicemail and e-mail, hoping for an apology.  But he sent none.  She knew she would never hear from him again, but she did not know why.  She reviewed every word and gesture, she could think of nothing that resembled an argument. 
Muriel assumed she would never see Richard Madden again, but in this, she was wrong.  The next week, he showed up on campus with one of her classmates. Richard gave a friendly hello and no more, as if he hardly knew her.    
After that, Muriel rarely saw her father or Cathleen—and mostly spent vacations with her sorority friends.  She disliked visiting the home that her father had made with Cathleen. Most of all, she couldn’t stand the sight of her step-sister, with her blonde hair and her doting mother.  She never been close to Marianna, but now, she despised her and taunted her.  Cathleen's daughter listened to the insults in silence—but she cried herself to sleep at night. 
My mother was unsurprised about Richard Madden.  “I never liked that boy,” she said. And for a while, we did not speak about Cathleen and her family.
Another two years passed, and Muriel went to Paris—the trip was supposed to last a few months.  That is when Muriel disappeared.  Her father hired a private detective to find Muriel. There were the usual false sightings and many dead ends, and eventually, the families gave up.  They accepted her disappearance. Her father removed her pictures from the wall—and no one spoke of her by name.
Marianna, though, had blossomed.  Despite her mother's opposition, she had entered a national fashion design contest and she had won.  She was perched for success.
But Cathleen told me, Marianna rejected the idea that Muriel was lost forever.  She had faith that Muriel would return eventually.  
I debated about which part of the story to tell my mother-- Marianna's new found confidence or the disturbing disappearance of Muriel.  Like many Jewish families, we had ghosts of our own and names that we never spoke.  But I ended up telling my mother the whole story.
And after I had told her everything, my mother said:
“The real story isn't about Richard Madden and Muriel.  It’s about the girls, Muriel and Marianna.  That's the real love story.  That's the one that no one else can see. 
“Marianna will find her.  Mark my words, Marianna will be the one.  You'll see, years from now, she will not have forgotten her.  She will never forget her step-sister.  Marianna is not that kind of person. She will go through every city in Europe.  She will never stop until she finds her. The girls will be re-united, and when they have children of their own, they will know each other and love each other.  Marianna is the only one who can find her.”
You'll see, mark my words.  

2017: Last Year's Anti-Resolutions Revised

Last year, I set my resolutions for the New Year as Anti-Resolutions.  Among those were my determination to avoid celebrity memoirs (of drug addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction and alcohol) as well as all self-help books, whether about dieting, exercise or spiritual growth-- and in keeping with this anti-resolution, I managed to age a full year, without the spiritual guidance of others.    

It was indeed a very long year.  It seemed endless.

A year in which I scupulously avoided televised news, which was, as ever, loud and uninformed.  I admit that I did not adhere to this resolution faithfully.  I peeked at the conventions (a speech here, a speech there) and the debates.  I was saddened, but not shocked, to find the Clinton-Trump debates to be issue-free, and, courtesy of our new President, occasionally vulgar.   Afterward, I gazed upon the spectacle of "fact-checking." (Apparently, journalists can't be counted on to challenge facts during debates-- we need separate "unbiased" organizations to do this.) 

My final anti-resolution of 2016 was to skip social media political discussions.  This is a strategy I recommend to everyone, especially our new President.  Facebook and Twitter are inferior vehicles for nuanced political debate.  We all have opinions.  We all feel strongly about them, too.  But broadcasting them daily, and stridently, does not strengthen our positions or make us better informed. The truth, for better or worse, is that minds are not easy to change.  Our friends, to our consternation, have minds of their own.

My new resolution for 2017 is to read as much history as I can.  Not politics, not sociology, not academic theory, but old-fashioned history.  I'm looking forward to learning more, knowing more, and gaining new perspectives-- without having others tell me what and how to think.  

Holiday Reading List: Fiction about New York

This year, I am in a New York frame of mind for my holiday reading.  Although it has been almost two decades since I lived there, New York will always feel like home to me.  It's my city.

So what could be better than reading fiction where the city's the star player?  As it happens, this year, though a Facebook group, I discovered three fine novels written by women, each taking place in a different neighborhood in Manhattan, as well as an equally wonderful story collection.  To that I add, a volume from Library of America, by one of my favorite New York writers-- actually by one of my favorite writers.

So, download or buy, and relax.  These writers will give you a perfect Holiday New York Read.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen

Few books truly earn the word charming-- and this is one of them. The author skillfully weaves nine women's tales (among them, a buyer at Bloomingdale's, and a would-be actress, to name two of my favorites) and connects them through, yes, the perfect little black dress, designed by an almost 90-year old immigrant designer.  Rosen deftly returns us to the origins of the garment industry (from Poland to Manhattan's West 30's) while not missing a beat. Sometimes, contemporary romance can be sticky-sweet, but who can resist a happy ending, especially when there are NINE of them?

The Anarchist's Girlfriend by Susan Weinstein

A treat to discover this almost-lost novel, now re-launched in a newly edited version.  (I've spoken with the author about the book's publishing history with the author, Susan Weinstein, here.)

Fashion's part of this New York story, too, in the form of a futuristic fashion muse (this heroine designs clothes of the future)  in The Anarchist's Girlfriend.  It is the New York of the '80s, in downtown Manhattan, with its blend offbeat politics, offbeat sensibilities, and the bizarre conspiracies.  Think: terrorist plots, wacky spiritualist plots, and of course, anarchist plots, all completely circular and self-enclosed-- and in Weinstein's hands, all colliding.  For lovers of Thomas Pynchon (that would be me) and Don deLillo, this novel is a densely-plotted, twisty joyride, faster than a New York subway, and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Next by Stephanie Gangi

From downtown Manhattan, zoom up to the Upper East Side, through the eyes of a jealous, outrageously sexy ghost named Joanna, and those she left behind (including her loyal dog.)  Don't worry about the ghostly part, because Joanna knows her shoe brands, movies, songs and swanky restaurants, as only a chic New Yorker can-- and she's determined to get revenge on the younger guy who dumped her for a celebrity skincare guru.  With biting feminist comedy, the smart Joanna, even in death, is more powerful than her shady Lothario-- and this spiritual page turner really delivers.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins

Sometimes, when critics rave, I am skeptical, but this time, the accolades are well-deserved.  Kathleen Collins, who died at the age of 46, is that rare breed, a natural storyteller.  Every sentence in this collection made me want to read more: from the uncle who cried himself to sleep, to the "happy" family based on pretense, every moment is alive.  Aside from Grace Paley, it's hard for me to think of another short story writer who's captured the sense, the vibrancy, of New York life so accurately. Entire lives are captured in brief fragments- and each of them seems to contain mysteries only fiction can glimpse.  If you want to remember New York in the sixties and seventies, this is the book to read.    

Library of America:  Dawn Powell:  Novels 1944-1962 (Volume 2)

I am nuts about the work of novelist, Dawn Powell.  I plain old adore her.  Soulful, funny, and a razor-sharp wit-- and a true picture of New York in the 40s and 50s.

No one writes better about the pretensions and, yes, dreams of Manhattan.  Her plots are tight, her characters quintessential New Yorkers (from the hapless advertising executive who's fooling around more than is good for him to the young, on-the-make writers hustling their way up), her dialogue pitch perfect.  Here are the New York bars, with their array of drunken, self-indulgent would-be artists; the pseudo-swanky soirees with their array of has-beens, tired hostesses, and bored spouses, and the shifting and shifty landscape of success and failure.  Artists come and artists go in Powell's world, and one year's toast is next year's trash-- and it's never less than funny.

I own both volumes in the LOA collection.  But if you read only one, this second contains three of her Manhattan novels, including her hilarious masterpiece, The Golden Spur.

Interview with Stephanie Gangi, Author of THE NEXT

Today we have an interview with Stephanie Gangi, who has recently published her dazzling debut novel, THE NEXT.  If you’re up for a biting, funny tale of revenge, I highly recommend it.  
First, a few words about her:  Stephanie Gangi lives, writes and goes to her day job in New York City. She is a poet, a fiction writer, and at work on personal essays and her second novel.
SARETT:  It’s hard to believe this is your first novel-- the writing’s so vivid.  Had you written other novels before THE NEXT?
Gangi: Well, thank you, but No! I have made a dozen starts over the years, crates full of beginnings. I always knew I was a writer, but I spent much too long considering it my ‘hobby’. Crazy!
SARETT:  Which came first for you -- the story or the character of Joanna?
Gangi: Joanna came first. I wanted to write about a complicated, complex woman, an angry woman who can not reconcile the disappointments that life delivers, and is determined to finally unleash her rage. I myself am not terribly angry (until the election, of course), or if I am, I manage to redirect or channel that anger, as many women have been trained to do. I wanted to to just let my Joanna rant against heartbreak, aging, sickness, invisibility, inevitability.

SARETT:  The novel is about after-life, of a sort.  Do you believe that we do experience “life” after death?  That we have souls, for example?  
Gangi: I actually don’t believe we experience life after death, but I must say, as I get older and wiser and more reflective, it’s become harder for me to accept that all the energy we’ve generated – all the love – just dissipates. I guess I think – hope – there could be some sort of cosmic consciousness, to where all our best energies – our souls – are drawn when we leave this plane of existence. A giant magnet, pulling the best part of each of us into a big love cloud.
SARETT:  Many writers love ghost stories- and so do I! I’m a huge fan of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories.   Were you a fan of ghost stories before writing THE NEXT?  
Gangi: Honest answer is no, although Wharton is the exception. I thought the ghost concept was a strong metaphor, though, and the more I wrote into it, the more comfortable I became with it. Women of a certain age made invisible by society, existing outside reality when you are sick, technology harboring the ghosts of our many selves in the machines. And I loved the idea of a contemporary ghost in NYC, mingling with all the other ghosts, playing with how she would operate, how she would use her invisibility to take what she wants. Or thinks she wants!

SARETT:  Your angry heroine did bring to mind the great Fay Weldon.  Was she an influence in your writing?  Any other style muses?
Gangi: Thank you for that! There’s a deep morality in her work, and a worldview that is tough and authentic and feminist. On top of that, she’s a satirist and funny, which is so hard to do. I’ve heard from readers that they’ve laughed out loud reading The Next, so if I’ve come close to Weldon stylistically, I’m thrilled.
As far as ‘style muses,’ I can only respond as a reader. I’ve been drawn to an ironical, cynical voice that thinly veils blinding passion and despair! I’m thinking of Heller, Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, DeLillo, and an heir of theirs, the great Anthony Mara. Combine all that with my love of commercial fiction (Gone Girl comes to mind), and I’d say my “style” lies therein. I aspire, anyway.

SARETT: Joanna, your ghost heroine, is hell-bent on revenge-- and yet the object of her affections is a second rate guy.  To me, that felt like a feminist statement (funny, but biting) about how much time women waste on unworthy men -- was that your intent?
Gangi: I’m not sure I was successful with the Ned character if he comes across as ONLY unworthy. I hoped to show that Ned is driven by his own demons – alcoholic mother, closeted dad, a deep-down romantic streak he tamps down for his ambition. It’s true that ultimately, he is a guy -- non-communicative, selfish, a survivor at all costs. Ned is aware of what he has lost and how he himself is responsible. I hoped he was redeemed somewhat by his awareness?  
And yes, it was my intent to “use” Ned as a feminist’s foil … but also to show that Joanna was complicit. After all, she was pursuing vanity by getting involved with a younger guy, and on a deeper level – his desire helped her feel healthy. Stay alive. Helped her talk herself into believing their love could heal her.
I will say that the verdict is split. Half of my readers hate him, the other half are sympathetic to him.
SARETT:  Most novels have a mix of real and invented details?  What’s the mix in THE NEXT?
Gangi: Maybe, 60/40? The outline is close: I’ve had breast cancer. I have a big dog. I live in Manhattan. My own parents died suddenly. I’ve been divorced. I have daughters. But, I have also had great men in my life. Sure, I’ve had disappointments, but I’ve not experienced the level of betrayal that Joanna does! Unlike Joanna, I’m a blessings-counter. Unlike Joanna, I have no doubt where love lies – I have two wonderful daughters, family and friends that support me and care for me, a world of love I could never neglect to tend to my fury. Unlike Joanna I try and take a hard look at my own part in life’s disappointments. What choices did I make that I don’t want to repeat? She doesn’t wake up to that until it’s too late.

SARETT:  Lots of writing rules out there.  Is there any writing rule that you secretly enjoy breaking?    
Gangi: Yes! I did unleash an angry woman. I knew that would be controversialm and I was worried it would render The Next un-commercial. But the team at St. Martin’s embraced the book from the beginning, never once suggesting I tone Joanna down. Also, I alternated first and third person perspectives. I’ve heard from one illustrious editor that it’s almost impossible to do well, so I’m glad I stuck with the choice. I didn’t want a full-on rant to overtake the story. I needed to head-hop between characters, to show the impact Joanna’s death has on them. Grief is a complicated process – we don’t turn into saints when someone we love dies. We who are left behind remain our messy selves, and I wanted to show that through Jo’s daughters, Ned and even Tom, the dog.

SARETT:  Humor is a tough game-- and there’s that saying death is easy, comedy is hard.  How do you keep it funny?
Gangi: I think I am funny in real life. I can be irreverant and quick, maybe a little bawdy at times. I think life is funny, and people are funny, and even illness is kind of ridiculous. I think women are very very funny, and thankfully, recently, less afraid to reveal it lest men find it unattractive. I tried to channel all that, and then make it less specific to me, more universal. I’m glad you think I’ve succeeded! I wanted The Next to be funny and tragic. Like life.
SARETT:  My blog readers are always looking for new books.  Are there new fiction books that you’d recommend?    
Gangi: These are my most recent reads:
Bad Marie by Marcy Demansky
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolsoy
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald (nonfiction)
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (nonfiction)
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Poems)

SARETT:  Any new projects in the works that you’d like to share?   
Gangi: I’m trying to learn how to write a personal essay. I have a good start on novel #2, but the election has derailed me a bit – but I’ve got a new schedule and heavy goals to meet by January. I’ll be leading writing workshops for breast cancer patients in early 2017!

Find her:
Twitter: @gangi_land
Instagram: stephaniegangi

Buy the book EVERYWHERE and if you enjoyed The Next, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. They are so important for debut authors.

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