The Millions

What Makes Me Catch My Breath: Erika Swyler in Conversation with Adrienne Celt

I first met Adrienne Celt at the Tucson Festival of Books, where, after watching her befriend a macaw, I knew I needed to know her better. We’d both written novels involving family secrets and the same Slavic folklore. The Daughters went on to win the 2015 Pen Southwest Book Award. I devoured it in a day. Her writing is effortless and elegant and feels like eavesdropping on someone at the exact moment they reveal themselves. She’s also ridiculously funny. In her newest novel, Invitation to a Bonfire, she turns her attention to a dangerous affair inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s marriage. It’s fierce, daring, and had me rethinking how to read Nabokov. I had the pleasure of chatting over email with Adrienne about Nabokov, political rage, fabulism, and of course, sex.

Erika Swyler: With Invitation to a Bonfire you’re drawing from—at times audaciously channeling—Nabokov. What was it like to work with his style, which could be both reverential and damning of all things female?

Ha. I was eager to be both reverential and damning of Nabokov, so it felt natural? That sounds glib, but I’ve adored Nabokov, reverently, for my entire adult life, and yet this book came from a place of sudden rage at discovering that he’d had an affair (well, probably many affairs, but one especially significant one) and quickly thereafter a desire to get even. I spent a long time believing that the way he cherished was a kind of atonement for the level to which she gave

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions3 min read
December Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)
Here are the new releases we're looking out for December 2019. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! The post December Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month) appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions4 min read
A Year in Reading: Stephen Dodson
This year I read two of the greatest novels ever written. The post A Year in Reading: Stephen Dodson appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions2 min read
A Year in Reading: Alexandra Kleeman
The feeling was like those days when fear for a sick friend leaves you unable to eat, afraid any action could disturb some delicate superstitious balance. The post A Year in Reading: Alexandra Kleeman appeared first on The Millions.