ASK ME ANYTHING
An assortment of interviews, about both Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest and the writing life.
Cover Stories: Slouching Toward Adulthood by Sally Koslow - Barnes & Noble Book Clubs
From Parents, a Living Inheritance - New York Times, Your Money
“Laying Down New Rules For The 'Not-So-Empty Nest'” - NPR, Talk of the Nation
Becoming first time grandpa is best gift for Father's Day - MyNorthwest.com
“Slouching Towards Adulthood” With Former Editor In Chief Of McCall’s Magazine Sally Koslow - Arthur Kade
Sally Koslow - How Do You Stay Original? - Author Learning Center
Sally Koslow Talks About Slouching Toward Adulthood: Why is it taking our children so long to grow up? - Psychology Today
Sally Koslow on Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations From The Not-So-Empty Nest - The Huffington Post
'Why Won't My Son Leave Home?': Parenting Adults Who Won't Grow Up - Beliefnet
Sally Koslow, author of ’Slouching Toward Adulthood’ - Boston Globe
5 Questions with Sally Koslow - Dr Stephanie
Sally Koslow - Slouching Toward Adulthood - WAMC
A Conversation With Sally Koslow - Lilith
College Grads Living at Home [AUDIO] - Indiana Youth Institute
“Interview with Sally Koslow, author of “Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest” - Drinking Diaries
TALKING TO SALLY ABOUT THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX
As readers can deduce from the title, our heroine, Molly Marx, is dead. We meet Molly at her funeral, in the first sentence. I got the idea for the novel while attending the funeral for a neighbor whom I didn’t know well, and as eulogies unfolded, I wished I had; there were sides to her I’d never guessed. I was rather surprised--as I thought the deceased, a distinctly private woman, might be--by the outpouring of mourners at her service. Later, when people gathered at the widower’s home, I moved on to shock when mourners approach him about dating and his mother, whom I’d just met, complained about what a difficult person her deceased daughter-in-law had been. By that evening I was infected by a “you can’t make this stuff up” feeling and knew I wanted to write about a mystery cloaking a woman’s death, although I created a character less troubled than my neighbor. One of life’s recurring fantasies is to be a fly on the wall at your own funeral. Who doesn’t wonder about virtues we have that speakers would find worthy of extolling, who those speakers might be and in the case of many women at least, the clothes in which we’d be buried. (No pleated pants, please.).
Is the Molly character you?
Certainly, we share many flaws. Like Molly, email chain letters have expired on my watch, I can annoy my husband by prattling on, I’ve been known to gossip and forget birthdays and in thriller movies, sometimes can’t follow the story line. I’d like to think I’m a good friend, a good sister, a good mother, but unlike Molly I’ve never had a daughter, I don’t much like to bike, I do take care of my shoes and I don’t subscribe to cheesy celerity magazines. Also, as I’m writing this I am, thank God, very much alive.
The novel is told in a split narrative, with a 3rd-person back-story and a 1st-person present-tense story. Why did you choose that route?
My first novel, Little Pink Slips, was told in a direct chronological sequence. To grow as a writer, I thought it would be interesting to explore another format, one which could give the character Molly more immediacy, in order for readers to be in her head as she reflects on her life and witnesses those left behind. But I also wanted to flash back to before Molly’s death, and tell that part of her story from a viewpoint where she, literally, has less perspective.
Publisher’s Weekly referred to the novel’s “heavy dose of hilarity?” Is the point of the book its humor?
I think you can look for comedy in almost any tough situation. I’m pleased that readers have found The Late, Lamented Molly Marx to be amusing. I admire writing where humor and tenderness collide. I think of the book as a reflection on complex relationships—marriage, sisterhood, parenthood, friendship—that’s built on the infrastructure of a mystery. I hope readers will notice Oscar Wilde’s quote: “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” To me, this is the heart of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx. Often events around us elude explanation. We can help analyze reality best if we activate our bullshit detectors. Humor jump-starts that process.
The character Molly experiences “life” after death in a location you refer to as “The Duration.” Do you believe in an after life?
I was raised in the Jewish tradition, with the concept that after death a person lives on through good deeds she’s exhibited and the providence they may leave behind. My spiritual focus has never been heaven or hell, yet I can’t say that I’m not philosophically curious about what comes next. I’d like to think that metaphorically, a place exists where a restless spirit lands, takes another form and may bring about something positive. Is there a Duration and will Elvis be singing? Is divine retribution part of the picture, like there is in the book? I’ll have to wait to find out.
What’s your writing process?
Writers who plot a complete book in advance awe me. My mind doesn’t work that way. I start with a sense of where I want to end and begin with characters, get to know them, and let them tell me what they will do next. As I write, my characters feel increasingly real. I try to see and hear them and record what’s going on, almost as if I were watching a movie. Writing fiction is fairly new for me. I was your garden-variety moody teenager who wrote poetry; a few lines of which I quote on p. 301 and during high school and college became interested in journalism, with Lois Lane as role model. I spent decades writing for and editing non-fiction for magazines and became editor-in-chief of McCall’s and of Lifetime. Only when I was no longer on top of a masthead did I flirt with fiction, I joined a writers’ workshop, for the deadlines, the feedback, and the camaraderie. I’m still in that group. Submitting my first drafts there is like taking a play to New Haven.
I’ve discovered that certain times of day—the morning, especially--feel most fertile and that if I go for a run, the wires in my brain wake up and connect. Whenever I can, I make a run or walk part of my process. I researched and reported on this phenomenon for a health magazine and learned that scientists have found that repetitive exercise puts you almost in a dream state which fosters creativity. Biking and swimming are good for this, too, while strategic games like golf or tennis are not. For me this is fortunate. I have zero eye-hand coordination. I’m lucky I can type.
Do you have a favorite character in the book?
Lucy! I’m fascinated by what the anthropologist Margaret Mead has observed, that within families the bond between sisters is the most competitive, but when sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest. Molly and Lucy were inspired by a photograph an acquaintance showed me of her fraternal twins taken when the girls were 13. One appeared to be about 20, with the shape of Beyonce Knowles, and the other, a childish, skinny 11, exactly how I looked at that age. The relationship between sisters has always interested me.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
No question: when Molly gives birth to Annabel. Ask any mother--no matter how much it hurts, she’ll tell you the day her children were born was the most fulfilling of her life.
Why did you make Molly’s occupation a decorating stylist?
Decorating magazines are my porn. At home I’ve never used a professional decorator—for better or worse, I’m hooked on trying to fashion my own environment. I painted one entire apartment pale pink, to the horror of friends whose taste runs from beige to taupe. Perhaps they found it cloying, but I adored the way people looked reflected in a pink glow. When I worked on magazines I always had the highest for regard for lifestyle editors. They go on location, bring in the orchids and sisal rugs, rearrange the mantel and furniture and hours later, a home shines. There’s both gritty physical work and imagination required. I’ve never had that job myself, and wanted to give Molly this opportunity.
Are you writing another novel?
Yes, about the complexities of friendship, especially when your own self-interest trumps and conflicts with what’s best for a friend. Do you know the German word schadenfreude: pleasure taken from someone else’s misfortunate? It’s a dark emotion related to envy, and will flavor the book along with reflections about changing attitudes and values relating to money, status and priorities in our culture.
What are you reading these days? Who’s influenced you?
My favorite writer and greatest influence is Edith Wharton, but lately I’ve been reading contemporary fiction. In the past year I’ve discovered some wonderful writers whose novels I have thoroughly enjoyed: Charlotte Mendelsohn’s When We Were Bad and Daughters of Jerusalem along with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Burrows and The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. I also loved Lucette Lagnado’s memoir, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. I think it’s time for me to read or reread something that isn’t contemporary. Hello again, Edith. I’ve taken the newest translation of Anna Karenina off my shelf and hope to get to it soon. Reading is my daily reward, like dark chocolate. I’ve noticed that my cooking improves when I use high quality ingredients and hope the same theory applies with books feeding my brain.