Crossing Over - Author Marina Budhos' Website

Crossing Over aims to capture what all writers do: we cross over into territory both familiar and unknown.

Welcome to Crossing Over, the blog of author Marina Budhos.

Parkway PlanI grew up in Queens, NY, in Parkway Village, a community built for U.N. families, and a haven for international, mixed, wholesale mlb jerseys and American families during the ferment wholesale jerseys of civil rights and social change.  Reinaldo Over the years I’ve come to understand that world! this sense of crossing over, of mixture, permeates my way of seeing the world.  And it drives my writing too.  I am an adult author who crossed over into young adult; a cheap jerseys fiction writer who cheap jerseys frequently crosses over into nonfiction; and a writer who loves to create worlds that capture these cultural complexities.

But I’m also leery of categories that can be too Democrats confining.  To me, that’s the very spirit of crossing over–resisting easy labels.  So, in its broadest sense, Crossing Over aims to capture what all writers do: Floodgates we cross over into territory both familiar and wholesale mlb jerseys unknown.

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Normality Elusive In Fraught Times–Muslim Teenagers after Orlando

An article in the NY Times today about how the Orlando killings are again snatching away a sense of normality for Muslim teens during Ramadan, a time that should be reflective and celebratory.

Last year, during Ramadan, I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Queens and Brooklyn for my new novel Watched.  And what I was so struck by–and what is lost in these polarizing times where Islam is equated with frightening headlines–is the way in which Islam, observance, is part of the fabric of life, a rhythm for one’s days.  I watched families hurry to pick up last groceries, stroll and linger on streets before and after prayers,  crowd around tables under the pale wash of florescent restaurant light for the Iftar, the evening meal.  Little children cupped in father’s arms; a man and his wife, their robes blazing white in the dark, rushed off a bus, across a busy avenue.  By one tiny mosque, where the women prayed, jammed next to one another in a narrow basement, prayers voiced in through speakers, little children set off tiny bang-snaps outside, annoying the adults who also forgave them.  It was such a New York, a Brooklyn scene: how many children have been doing that for generations on borough pavements?

Take a look at the beautiful slide show that captures some of this.

Kara Walker & The Real Sugar Links

On Kara Walker’s A Subtlety is a marvelous, yet maddening installation at the old Domino Sugar Factory.  Here’s why:

When I stepped inside the vast Domino Sugar Factory for the opening of Kara Walker’s installation, A Subtlety, I nearly wept.  For over a century, the iconic Domino Sugar Factory, which shut its doors a decade ago, has loomed on the Brooklyn waterfront, an enigmatic, forgotten carapace.  Now, with Walker’s sculpture, it is not just the doors of the factory that have reopened–we have also flung open our shared history of sugar.  It is a history I know well, for my own family traveled from northern India as indentured workers to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.  My great-grandfather gave away his share of land in Uttar Pradesh to his two older brothers and set off to seek a new life in British Guiana, which rivaled Jamaica and Cuba as one of the largest sugar producers in the world. Continue reading

Lisa Jalowetz Aronson: The Door Opens

Lisa with Peter Lindenfeld at a show of Lore Lindenfeld’s work

I first met my future mother-in-law in 1996, when my boyfriend at the time, Marc Aronson, brought me to Westchester, where he was giving a talk on Edith Wharton to his mother’s book reading group, which was reading House of Mirth.  Marc and I had met many times over the years–I an all-in-black aspiring novelist, he an editor at Henry Holt–mostly at the home of Shashi and Minu Tharoor.  On one fateful occasion, we sat perched on a sofa and were soon immersed in  a conversation about Edith Wharton and Henry James.  Marc had recently finished his dissertation on William Crary Brownell, who edited both authors.  (I am a James fan; he a Wharton, and we still have not resolved the issue) At the time, I think Marc was surprised that he was talking to someone who not only knew all the works, but even cared!

What followed was a very Jamesian or Whartonesque courtship–take your pick–a long date at the Metropolitan Museum, where we both had wandered as children and now shared our favorite rooms, literary readings, strolls and high and low meals talking books in our beloved New York City; proffered and refused gifts and many, many conversations, heady and otherwise.  Over the course of that time, he mentioned his parents a few times–once at an Israeli restaurant in the East Village he said something about his parents ‘working in the theater.’  Then one evening, standing at the bar at Gramercy Tavern, after an event at the National Arts Club, he began to explain his fascination with Brownell, how he was drawn to figures who are on the borderline or cusp of cultural change, since of course, that was who his father, the set designer Boris Aronson, was.  At that moment, I thought to myself, “I will never be bored with this man.  I will always want to hear what he has to say,” and simply put–fell in love.

Shortly thereafter we rented a car and made our way up to Westchester, where I met his elegant, snowy-haired mother and her fellow book group.  Marc gave his talk and then we followed Lisa back to her home, across the river, in Nyack.  At the time, Lisa was about 75 years old, and she drove like a speed demon, swerving around the winding roads.  As we stepped up to the door, he paused, and said with a sigh, “Welcome to my family.  Welcome to the avant-garde.”

The door swung open. Continue reading

We’re Ready for Immigration Reform: A Novelist’s Perspective

A new Op-Ed in the Huffington Post:

With the bipartisan proposal on immigration just announced, and President Obama’s speech on reform delivered recently, we’re all braced for the polarizing winds of anger to rage.

But that’s not what I’ve found. For several years, I have been talking about illegal immigrants, all over the country. Every time I finish my talk, I wait for a blast of hostility.

It never comes.

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When Do You Write: Guest Post at Anjali Enjeti’s Website

Nowadays I write when the saws aren’t whining downstairs or one of my boys isn’t tumbling into my study, complaining about his odious brother.  Seriously, right now—living through a kitchen renovation during the summer, my prime writing time—has been a huge challenge.  It’s discombobulated my otherwise pretty disciplined rhythm, which I established in graduate school years ago.  At that time, I felt so guilty about leaving a ‘real’ job, and living on the tiny scholarship, I felt I had to be at it, every morning.  I lived in a tiny studio, worked at the kitchen table and listened to the family next door in a gorgeous Victorian back down their driveway every morning, going off to the ‘real world’.  I remember feeling terribly deprived, sure I would never have such a life, and yet pure, Spartan.

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Mrs. Dalloway Then and Now

This appeared in the Patch:

When I was in college, I took a course taught by an erudite British poet and critic, Jon Stallworthy, who came to class in nubby wool sweaters, and assigned us to write an essay on “Why Mrs. Dalloway is a masterpiece.”

Moxie sophomore that I was, I decided to write a paper on why Mrs. Dalloway was not a masterpiece, and headed straight to the Graduate Library, where I spent hours digging up old reviews in English newspapers, panning Woolf’s novel, and building up my sure-fire case that the novel was ‘second rate’—not on the order of To the Lighthouse, certainly.  I was sure my professor would be impressed by my extraordinary, rebellious performance. Continue reading

Remembering David Foster Wallace (briefly)

This was a piece I wrote for our local Patch in anticipation of an event with biographer D.T. Max:

In 1989, when I was still a novice writer, I spent the summer at Yaddo, the beautiful writer’s colony in Saratoga Springs.  It’s a fairly intimidating and luxurious atmosphere (butterballs served at dinner!) for any new writer still trying to get a handle on a first novel. One feels both anointed and yet hollow, inadequate.

It was there I met—among many other writers—David Foster Wallace.  Already, there was a bit of star aura around David—he was clearly brilliant, and his difficult, opaque and challenging first collection, The Broom of the System, had been published.  Downstairs in the main room of Yaddo’s Victorian house was the mail table—and it was hard not notice the big packages that came for David—from publishers, from Michael Pietsch, his editor at Little, Brown.  Wallace was starting to hum with a true career while many of us were simply in the shadows, figuring out who we were as writers or artists.

 

David was a funny mix of Midwestern earnest, well-brought up, polite, and yet sharply arrogant.  He kept his cards to his chest, though one could still see the whirring, ambitious calculations within.  Evenings, some of us would sit around the screened-in porch for long winding conversations about the state of contemporary fiction, and he would dominate, posing quizzical questions, conducting the conversation as if he were the professor.  (Flustering a few of the more insecure young writers)  I could clearly detect that he was a professor’s son, used to the analytic seminar, even in his slacker trademark bandana around his long hair.  Indeed David was not teaching creative writing as many of us were—he was headed for Harvard to study philosophy.

Over the course of the month, a small group of us hung around quite a bit, shooting pool in town, or joining him as he smoked a lot of pot in his attic room.  I once made the mistake of playing tennis with him—he was a ranked state player in high school—and embarrassing myself not just with the ball, but with some of the intellectual volleys, so shy was I at the time.

Lobbing the ball across the net, he asked me what I thought was the next frontier in fiction.  Since I was actually trying to wean myself of the intellectual pyrotechnics of experimental fiction, I mumbled something about ‘ethnic’ or ‘multicultural’ fiction and then felt completely tongue-tied and embarrassed.  Somehow, I managed to say, “You know it’s mostly about writing a story that really hits you.”

He paused on the court.  Something had clicked.  He said quietly, “Yes, there is that.  It’s hard to deliver that emotional knockout that gets you right here—“ He pointed to his chest.  “That is rare.”

David would go on to write Infinite Jest, a book that was a huge achievement; as much a literary opus as it was a massive cultural event.  He also battled with severe and profound depression.  Shortly after he left Yaddo, I’d heard from mutual acquaintances that he’d had a severe crack up, dropped out of Harvard, and was in an institution.  All that pot smoking masked his constant internal struggles with “the black hole with teeth.”

Over the next decades, Wallace moved toward the luminosity of the truly gifted and brilliant, the public.  A cultish fascination grew around his maximalist work.  Though I was not one of those who dared crack open the over a thousand-page-tome, David’s journalism and essays, which appeared on the pages of Harper’s, were among my favorite—funny, erudite, slangy, relaxed, genre-breaking cultural commentary, where his penchant for the extended, hilarious footnote became a genre unto itself.

To my surprise, many, many years later, the author DT Max contacted me in his research for the biography of Wallace, which began with a New Yorker article he wrote about the last days of Wallace’s life before he committed suicide in 2008.  I was surprised, as I was no more than a speck in the huge number of famous figures and dear friends who populated David’s life.  But it speaks to DT’s scrupulous sense of fine research that he reached out to everyone.

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is a kind book, for it takes up, with compassion and insight, the twin struggles of Wallace, the ambitious literary author and Wallace the person, battling severe depression.

 

Continue reading

What I’m Reading

A few days ago I finished D.T. Max’s Every Story is a Love Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace.   The book is both eminently readable, a kind of psychological thriller of one brilliant author’s mind, his ouvre, and ultimate self-destruction.  At the same time, I found myself queasily putting it down for rest stops–perhaps because I knew David very slightly, from Yaddo, and thus his ghost brushed past on the page; perhaps because this was the first time I had read a biography of someone who is a contemporary.  The effect is oddly dizzying, even nauseating (is it nauseated? Wallace was a hard-ass on grammar and nausea was one of his pet peeves).  It’s like being in a Tilt-a-Whirl of one’s own times, lurching a bit too close to one’s cultural moments, veering away as we watch his particular struggles and demise.  In the end, the book is also terribly sad and moving.

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Throughout the summer I’ve been slowly making my way through Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, in preparation for our project on Robert Capa and Gerda Taro and the Spanish Civil War.  I’ve never been a great reader of Hemingway–he was most certainly the obligatory guy author for me back in high school, and I’ve never been a fan of minimalism.  Its language constraints irritate me; the dialogue at times seems peevishly forced.  Prior to beginning the novel, I read the two biographies of Martha Gelhorn–the second, which was unauthorized, provides a rather damning portrait of Hemingway the mean and vindictive ex-husband, so I was hardly inclined toward him as an author. Continue reading

First Stop: Barcelona

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