I've talked to a lot of twins, and they've all mentioned that you feel the need to make yourself into an individual. You're always a twin, but the question, I think, for any pair of twins is, How's that going to work once we get married and have children? Were there certain pairs of pop-culture twins that came to mind when you were writing this book? Someone in some review somewhere mentioned Diane Arbus' photo of those young twins, and that's an iconic image for me. I'm a huge admirer of Diane Arbus.
And even though my twins don't look like that and they're older, there's something in the way those two girls look at the camera. With her work, there's always this quality of looking at people maybe you feel you shouldn't be looking at.
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You used to teach book arts in Chicago, and you actually make books. As someone, then, who is so involved with the physical construction of books, are you concerned that one day everything will be digital? I'm concerned about the effect of the digital on the world of the printed book. I think there are a lot of things that digital books could do more effectively.
- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger | Penguin Random House Canada;
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I can imagine, for example, that with textbooks and telephone books and all of those resources, it would be lovely for them to be searchable the way we're used to searching the Internet. But to read a novel, I would really much rather have a physical book.
I realize that e-books are in their infancy and that the machines will improve, but at the moment, [for art books] the image-rendering qualities are just laughable. When photography was invented, it took from painting a lot of the more practical image-making and recording tasks.
And so painting was left pretty much with its aesthetic qualities, because most of the practical things you could do with painting were much more easily done with photography. Painting got increasingly abstract, increasingly tactile, and moved completely into the world of art.
So maybe that's what will happen to books. But I sure hope not. Do you read for pleasure across genres? Is there a type of book you tend toward in a bookstore? I try to range freely around the bookstore. I have a fantasy of opening a bookstore, and if I ever do that, it's not going to have sections or categories. I think we should encourage people to get out of their weird little categories. Instead of saying, "I only read business books" or "I only read romance" or whatever it is that people think they read, it would be nice if everybody would graze more widely.
How would that bookstore even look?
You could do it by color of the spine. You could do it by how big the book was. All the little books over here and all the big books over there. London is literature's Victorian ghost-story capital. Did you have to grapple with everything that came before in that genre? I definitely wanted to ground my story in all the stuff that had come before.
The book is definitely supposed to comment and hopefully expand on London ghost stories of yore. We're in the 21st century now, though. What's the continued appeal of ghost stories? It's sort of like the appeal of macaroni and cheese, don't you think? It's delicious and comforting.
Or, in the case of my book, not that comforting. Her attitude is probably a good thing, considering the film, which starred Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, was panned by critics and audiences alike. This story first appeared in the October 13, issue of WWD. Subscribe Today. The story revolves around twin sisters Julia and Valentina, who move from Chicago to London to occupy the flat of their deceased aunt, Elspeth. Every decision calls for a whole bunch of other decisions. So just by making Julia and Valentina into twins, I immediately had a structural device — the idea of symmetry. That started to dictate a lot of other decisions in the book.
WWD: Your characters often cross over into a fantasy world.https://flywheaw.cf
Author Audrey Niffenegger on 'Her Fearful Symmetry' - TIME
How do you do that but still maintain a sense of reality? As long as you have a good grip on your characters, you can put them in odd situations. WWD: Do you know what your next novel will be about? She does go to school, and of course, she is teased. WWD: Everyone in publishing is talking about the Kindle. What is your take on it? But I think it would be a shame if they took so much of the book audience that something ceased to be published physically, because in the future, these computer platforms may not be supported.