Texas Book Festival 2017:
Jeffrey Eugenides and Claire Messud

For both award-winning authors, adolescence was important

The pews of Central Presbyterian Church filled early and completely for a conversation between lauded authors Jeffrey Eugenides and Claire Messud. Austin author Amanda Eyre Ward moderated this conversation on the process of crafting remarkable fiction.

Jeffrey Eugenides (l) and Claire Messud (Photo by John Anderson)

Eugenides’ recently released collection of short stories, Fresh Complaint, served for a while as a constructive shift of focus from his career writing the intricate novels he is known for, including the Pulitzer-winning Middlesex. “When I wanted to remember what it felt like to finish something, I would stop and write a story,” he remembered.

Messud recalled the original inspiration for her gripping novel The Burning GIrl: a set of letters from old schoolmates in Australia sent to her after she moved to Canada as a child. In snippets, the letters told a tragic story of an old classmate. Upon rediscovering the letters, Messud was struck at the story told by the then-teenage girls as well as the unprovable nature of it. Already a novelist many times over, an idea for a novel was sparked and Messud set out to write a story on adolescent friendship.

Both authors agreed that adolescence and the real-life settings of their respective comings of age are deeply important and appear repeatedly in their stories. Speaking on his adolescence, Eugenides says, “Everything I write at some point circles back through it.” They consider the setting of a story a character of sorts, a knowable and often known entity to build characters upon as they work out their surroundings.

Zooming way out, the authors considered the conventions of the fiction writer throughout time. Alluding to Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dickens, and others, they discussed the monetary, temporal, and familial realities of authors today compared to those throughout history. Their joking and easygoing back-and-forth meant that even if all of their references didn’t register, the audience was still won over.

At the end of the conversation, satisfied fans bottlenecked at sanctuary doors before lining up to get their books signed.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Texas Book Festival
Texas Book Festival 2018: Making History: The Civil Rights Movement in Texas
Texas Book Festival 2018: Making History: The Civil Rights Movement in Texas
Uncovering the untold stories of integration at UT

Katarina Brown, Oct. 29, 2018

Texas Book Festival 2018: Real Romance: Alyssa Cole and Jasmine Guillory
Texas Book Festival 2018: Real Romance: Alyssa Cole and Jasmine Guillory
The two on what makes their contemporary love stories sparkle

Rosalind Faires, Oct. 29, 2018

More by Melany Jean
Melany Jean’s Top 10 Fine Art Moments of 2018
Melany Jean’s Top 10 Fine Art Moments of 2018
Unforgettably textured sculptures, unsettling exhibitions, and unusual spaces made for a memorable year in art

Dec. 28, 2018

"Annie Miller: I see london, I see france" at MoHA
This show in the Cage Match Project series casts the viewer as peeping Tom, looking through holes in a boarded-up trailer to view art

Nov. 30, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Texas Book Festival, Texas Book Festival 2017, Jeffrey Eugenides, Claire Messud, Amanda Eyre Ward

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle