Posted By trish on May 18, 2014
About No Longer and Not Yet
• Paperback: 232 pages
• Publisher: Excelsior Editions (March 1, 2014)
A collection of short stories about the city at its best: a human place, teeming with unique souls that somehow, serendipitously, come together in community, spin apart, find one another again.” – Rockland County Times
The interconnected short stories in No Longer and Not Yet work together to create a portrait of small town life in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment building. Joanna Clapps Herman, author of Anarchist Bastard (SUNY Press 2011), an acclaimed memoir about her Italian heritage, explores the way lives are lived in the split second moments between what is no longer but is still not yet. In the hallways, shops and parks that reveal this well-known big city neighborhood to be the tiny, even backwater village it more often reveals itself to be, the author depicts characters honestly yet tenderly revealing them through small gestures—the slope of a shoulder, a vocal inflection, the weight of a football—as by what they do, as though their bodies speak the truths they can’t express.
In No Longer and Not Yet, philosopher Hannah Arendt’s ghost haunts the building where she once lived, a hawk carries the apparition of a lost loved one, a homeless woman becomes Demeter. In this novel-like collection, small moments and the intimacies of life are woven together to create a beguiling narrative about human connection and the humor, magic and pathos of life.
The stories in No Longer and Not Yet will appeal to fans of Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri and Elizabeth Strout, because like them, they are “bathed in feeling and light and intelligence” and the characters will stay with the reader long after they’ve been read.
About Joanna Clapps Herman
Joanna Clapps Herman teaches creative writing in the MFA Graduate Program at Manhattanville College and at the Center for Worker Education, a division of City College of New York, CUNY. She is the author of The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America, also published by SUNY Press; coeditor (with Carol Bonomo Albright) of Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana; and coeditor (with Lee Gutkind) of Our Roots Are Deep with Passion: Creative Nonfiction Collects New Essays by Italian-American Writers. She lives in New York City.
Visit Joanna at her website.
Q&A with Joanna Clapps Herman
What inspired you to write a collection of short stories about your Manhattan apartment building?
It was just about living there and seeing the whole canvas of the vertical village as an obvious one to use to write a collection of stories.
Why will this book interest those who have never set foot in Manhattan?
This is really a book about raising a family and having friends and struggling with the daily stuff that takes over all our hours, including drinking great wine in the evening. Don’t we all do that?
Why did you choose the short story form instead of a novel?
This one just started as a collection of stories on its own. You always have to listen to what is pushing you inside to work well. This was the material that took me over and I listened to it. It wasn’t about to listen to me.
What is it that short stories can do, that makes them so exciting, so special?
It’s compact—it all has to work like a swiss watch and I like working to those demands.
Briefly describe how the stories in this collection interconnect.
The most obvious way in the world –they all live in the same world—most of them in one building, a few in that same neighborhood, and others who are friends of those same characters. But really what connects them is that they are all struggling with their families and their own personal histories and the way those histories have shaped them.
Who are your favorite writers of short fiction?
I love Alice Munro, I’m crazy about Babel, Chekhov, Tolstoy Turgenev, but for more contemporary people, Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff—has anyone written a better story than Bullet in the Brain, so concise and stunning, Joshua Ferris, Roddy Doyle has a story about a group of fathers going on vacation together and all he really cares about is having raised his kids, Andrea Lee, Stuart Dybek. I love podcasts but one of my all time favorites is Deborah Triesman’s New Yorker Fiction. One well known writer picks a New Yorker story that they love. They talk about why they chose that story, they read the story and then afterward they talk with Deborah about what is interesting to them about this piece of short fiction. It’s like being at the very best dinner party you’ve even been to and being in on the most fascinating conversation, except you don’t have to think of anything brilliant to say because if you are me –you’re in bed in your nightgown, under your blankets being a part of the world and at home in your most private world at the same time.
What would you like readers to “take with them” from this collection?
I’d love for people to be interested in what my characters are facing. I’d like them to feel as if they are walking around in a place that interests them. I’d like them to feel moved by my language when I’m turning it on and trying to make something beautiful or emotional. I’d like them to be impacted by those things.
If you could use five words to describe your work what would they be?
Local, intense, visceral, familial, parenting
If someone can only read one story in your book, which story?
That’s hard. I guess it would be either Falling or Passing History. But I love some of the tiny ones too like A Hawk in the City.
Who is your ideal reader?
Anyone who loves to read about ordinary people, especially people who like to read about raising children.
Joanna’s Tour Stops
Thursday, July 3rd: A Curious Gal
Saturday, July 5th: Books, Reviews, Etc.
Wednesday, July 9th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, July 14th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Thursday, July 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, July 18th: Cruising Susan Reviews
Monday, July 21st: Fiction Zeal
Tuesday, July 22nd: Cosmos Mariner
Wednesday, July 23rd: Books on the Table
Thursday, July 24th: Patricia’s Wisdom