A glimpse into a beloved novelist’s inner world, shaped by family, art, and literature.
In her fiction, Claire Messud "has specialized in creating unusual female characters with ferocious, imaginative inner lives" (Ruth Franklin, New York Times Magazine). Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on Messud’s own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature.
In twenty-six intimate, brilliant, and funny essays, Messud reflects on a childhood move from her Connecticut home to Australia; the complex relationship between her modern Canadian mother and a fiercely single French Catholic aunt; and a trip to Beirut, where her pied-noir father had once lived, while he was dying. She meditates on contemporary classics from Kazuo Ishiguro, Teju Cole, Rachel Cusk, and Valeria Luiselli; examines three facets of Albert Camus and The Stranger; and tours her favorite paintings at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In the luminous title essay, she explores her drive to write, born of the magic of sharing language and the transformative powers of “a single successful sentence.”
Together, these essays show the inner workings of a dazzling literary mind. Crafting a vivid portrait of a life in celebration of the power of literature, Messud proves once again "an absolute master storyteller" (Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times).
About the Author
Claire Messud is the author of six works of fiction. A recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she teaches at Harvard University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
All writing is autobiographical, but almost never in the ways we presume. This is a profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live. Claire Messud, with her lapidary intelligence and dizzying sense of history, is among the most luminous writers at work today.
— Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You
Moving and evocative…These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud’s rich inner life and generosity of spirit.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Powerful and inspirational: Messud is as fine a critic as she is a novelist.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)