Author Myla Goldberg provided an inside look at her writing Thursday during the launch of “Authors Out Loud,” a literary series cosponsored by GW held at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.
An offshoot of a University English course called “Literature Live” that studies contemporary Jewish American authors, the event received funding from alumnus and University Trustee David Bruce Smith. The series will feature writers like Goldberg and novelist Howard Jacobson, who will be GW’s third British Council U.K. writer in residence starting Friday.
At the event, Goldberg discussed prominent themes in her work.
“The idea that the world is broken and we have to try and fix it resonates deeply with me,” she said. “It’s a very Jewish theme. It’s a universal theme.” Her characters often undergo a long process of self-discovery, during which they determine their strengths and weaknesses and find their places in the world. “That’ll Be Two Dollars and Fifty Cents Please,” a short story of Goldberg’s that she read during the event, depicts a small town in Wisconsin and the power that its greatest celebrity, “Little Darling,” holds over the town and the narrator. “Little Darling” becomes the medium through which the narrator understands and interprets her own successes and failures, with humorous, though sometimes painful, scrutiny.
Goldberg also mentioned her fascination with Jewish mysticism, a subject she studied “on a whim one semester in college.” This “whim” became ingrained in Goldberg’s mind, and is present in much of her writing.
Goldberg’s first novel, “Bee Season,” was adapted into a movie in 2005, a process to which Goldberg slowly grew accustomed.
“I wanted to provide the most accurate portrait I could of my writing. Once my portrait is finished, I don’t go back,” she said. The story focuses on the Naumann family and its members’ struggle for new identities after 9-year-old Eliza becomes a spelling bee champ.
Goldberg said she felt strangely about having so much artistic license as a fiction writer, but that her self-discipline has been a huge factor in her success. Her latest novel, “Wickett’s Remedy,” required significant research about the 1918 influenza epidemic.
“I find her writing surprisingly gripping. She writes very well about the human condition… she writes these beautifully delicate characters,” said sophomore Tess Malone, a member of the “Literature Live” course.
At the event, Goldberg was animated, sarcastic and, above all, humble.
“Writing – it’s sort of the opposite of blogging and tweeting because I’m trying to conceal. I don’t want you to see me,” she said.