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Guest Thaisa Frank on
Fact and Fiction in Heidegger’s Glasses

January 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts, Q&A

[During the holiday break a new comment and question was left on the November 4, 2010 post, Thaisa Frank and Heidegger’s Glasses. Martha S. wrote:

I am in the middle of the book and it is great! But, I have to know. Did the Compound of Scribes really exist? How can I find out how much is fiction and how much is history?

The Divining Wand contacted Thaisa Frank (Heidegger’s Glasses, A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) and she replied with the following guest post. For those who have read the presentation/review of the novel, the beginning of the author’s explanation may sound familiar since it was originally part of the Red Room blog post, The Promise of the First Pages. However do read on to learn what is historical fact and what is fiction.

And thank you, Martha, for both the comment and the question.]

Fact and Fiction in Heidegger’s Glasses

The imagination is the weather of the mind.
Wallace Stevens, Adagia.

Over twenty years ago, when I’d written just one collection of short stories, I heard a woman’s voice from deep below the earth. She lived in Germany during World War II and was helping people answer letters to the dead. I knew her name. I could feel her claustrophobia. I also heard some of the letters. I wrote sixteen pages and stopped because I knew this woman lived in a world with so many strands only a novel could do it justice. I could even hear the length, like a few musical notes surrounded by hours of silence. But I only knew how to write short fiction.

I wrote other books. But the sixteen pages kept turning up in my studio, as if attached to springs. They turned up on the bookshelf. They turned up in a tax pile. They turned up under my printer. They even turned up inside a flyer from my son’s school–a long flyer, pleading for ecologically-packed lunches. They began to feel like a letter from the woman in the mine, asking me to tell her story. The paper grew more brittle and the typewriter print more antiquated. From time to time I saw her writing in a large room with other people. I always read the sixteen pages. I felt drawn to them. But I always put them away.

A few years ago, someone at a Christmas party told me that the philosopher Martin Heidegger once had a revelation that was caused by his own eyeglasses. As soon as I heard this, I saw the title Heidegger’s Glasses and knew I was going to write a novel. I had no idea what it would be about; but I was sure it involved World War II. I didn’t think about those sixteen pages I’d written so long ago until I’d finished writing the novel and received the galley proofs from my publisher. Then I found the sixteen pages–again on invisible springs–as if they were determined to remind me that they were the origin of the book. I read them over and realized they were a DNA of almost everything that became Heidegger’s Glasses. I also realized that even though they were about an imaginary world, that world was launched by real events in World War II. I hadn’t known about these events when I wrote those sixteen pages. I only found out about them afterwards, when I began to write the novel.

So what is fact and what is fiction?

Perhaps most importantly, the Reich never answered letters from the dead and there are no records of a converted mine in Northern Germany. But they did make people write letters–often just before they died. This procedure, called Briefaktion or Operation Mail, forced prisoners to write to their relatives, extolling conditions in the camps and urging them to come join them voluntarily. The letters, misaddressed or otherwise undeliverable, were usually returned to Berlin, from where they’d been mailed. This resulted in thousands of unanswered letters, most from people who had died. (Innumerable prisoners had to write letters as soon as they arrived and then were led to the gas chambers. The result is that they weren’t given numbers and there aren’t any records of their arrival or extermination.)

The Reich also relied on séances and information from the astral plane. Erik Hanussen, Hitler’s most important clairvoyant, predicted his rise to power and had a Palace of the Occult where he held séances until the Reich murdered him in 1933. The Reich was also fascinated by Lanz von Liebenfels’ concept of Ultima Thule, a place of extreme cold where a race of supermen lived. During the war a group called Die Thule-Gesellschaft (The Thule Society) met regularly to channel advice about war strategies from the astral plane

The contents of my novel were drawn unconsciously from those sixteen pages. Eventually the contents of my novel locked me into research where I found out about Operation Mail and the Nazi belief in the occult. And even though I had begun a novel (forgetting those 16 pages) in which people answered letters to the dead, the existence of Operation Mail (which made the improbable activity believable) was a surprise to me. So was the extensive interest and belief in the occults.

If indeed the imagination is the weather of the mind, then we all contend with the storms and rain and sun of our imaginations. And because the imagination is part of the world, we contend with the imaginations of people and groups who are distinct and sometimes far away. The imagination has uncanny instincts that allow it to leap beyond the limits of the mind. It can find doors to other centuries, read forbidden books, and meet improbable people. Writing Heidegger’s Glasses has been an adventure in discovering the fluid boundaries between the life of the imagination and the facts of recorded history.

* * * * *

Attention: Catherine McKenzie (Arranged currently only available from Canada, and Spin) sends this message from her Facebook page, I bet we can make these books best sellers:

A NEW YEAR, NEW BOOKS & A NEW GIVEAWAY
Happy new year. As promised, we’ve added some books to the reading list, the excellent The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, and The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh. You can read all about them in the discussions section. And to celebrate, we are having a 30 BOOK giveaway – when we reach 3000 members, or on January 31st, whichever happens first, we’ll give away 10 copies of each of the two new books and 5 copies each of the original books. Just comment on the CONTEST POST on the main group page to enter. And invite your friends to join the group – the faster we get to 3000, the faster we give away more books!

[By all means, enter to win!]

AND

Announcement: The winners of The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook are Gingermommy and Amy R. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly. Or, if you would rather have the Kindle Edition, please send the email address you use for downloading.

Thaisa Frank and Heidegger’s Glasses

November 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

HEIDEGGGER'SGLASSES
[Note: Although this presentation/review was originally posted on May 17, 2010 for Heidegger’s Glasses debut on May 25th, Thaisa Frank’s first novel was delayed until its launch this Monday, November 1, 2010. For those readers/visitors, as yet unfamiliar with the author, please see The Revealing of Thaisa Frank. Also may everyone read about the special Book Giveaway.]

According to The New York Times, the fiction of Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) works “by a tantalizing sense of indirection.” The critic Don Skiles has described her stories as being “in the grand tradition of the fairy tale, the legend, the spell,” while the reviewer Rob Hurwitt has called her work “domestic magical realism.” From Thaisa’s guest post, Do I Choose My Material or Does It Choose Me?, however, this acclaimed writer states: “I would say that I don’t work in the tradition of magic realism but in the tradition of surrealism.” And that is clearly what she’s done in her first novel, Heidegger’s Glasses.

Over twenty years ago, even the content of the book chose the unknowing author, as Thaisa explained in in her February 17, 2010 Red Room blog post, “The Promise of First Pages:”

The imagination is the weather of the mind.
Wallace Stevens, Adagia.

“How many of us have started promising beginnings only to have them sputter out, take wrong turns, and just refuse to go on? And how many of us say about ourselves ‘”I just can’t seem to finish things even though I start them?”‘

“Over twenty years ago, when I’d written just one collection of short stories, I heard a woman’s voice from deep below the earth. She lived in Germany during World War II and was helping people answer letters to the dead. I knew her name. I could feel her claustrophobia. I also heard some of the letters. I wrote sixteen pages and stopped because I knew this woman lived in a world with so many strands only a novel could do it justice. I could even hear the length, like a few musical notes surrounded by hours of silence. But I only knew how to write short fiction.

“I wrote other books. But the sixteen pages kept turning up in my studio, as if attached to springs. They turned up on the bookshelf. They turned up in a tax pile. They turned up under my printer. They even turned up inside a flyer from my son’s school–a long flyer, pleading for ecologically-packed lunches. They began to feel like a letter from the woman in the mine, asking me to tell her story. The paper grew more brittle and the typewriter print more antiquated. From time to time I saw her writing in a large room with other people. I always read the sixteen pages. I felt drawn to them. But I always put them away.

“A few years ago, someone at a Christmas party told me that the philosopher Martin Heidegger once had a revelation that was caused by his own eyeglasses. As soon as I heard this, I saw the title Heidegger’s Glasses and knew I was going to write a novel. I had no idea what it would be about; but I was sure it involved World War II. I didn’t think about those sixteen pages until I’d written the novel and received the galleys. Then I found them–again on invisible springs–as if they were determined to remind me that they were the origin of the book. I read them over and realized they were a DNA of almost everything that became Heidegger’s Glasses. I also realized that even though they were about an imaginary world, the world was launched by real events in World War II. I didn’t know about these events when I wrote those pages. I only found out about them afterwards, when I began to write the novel.” Please read more….

Thaisa Frank’s imagination, research and writing evolved into this synopsis:

A love affair larger than a World War.
A fairy tale with atrocities.
And it all begins with one single letter….

Heidegger’s Glasses is the startling, surreal debut novel from critically acclaimed author Thaisa Frank. The Third Reich’s obsession with the occult has led them to create the Compound of Scribes. Concealed in a converted mine shaft complete with rose-colored cobblestone streets and a continuously shifting artificial sky, the Scribes’ sole mission is to answer letters written to the dead—thereby preventing the deceased from pestering psychics for answers and inadvertently exposing the Final Solution.

As Germany falls apart at its seams, a letter arrives written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist and friend, a man now lost in the dying thralls at Auschwitz. The presence of Heidegger’s words—one simple letter in a place filled with letters—sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and wellbeing of the entire Compound.

Part love story and part historical fiction, Heidegger’s Glasses evocatively reconstructs the landscape of Nazi Germany from an entirely original and haunting vantage point.

Much like a Grimm fairy tale, Heideggger’s Glasses has garnered a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly and Advance Praise from fellow authors:


“This is stunning work, full of mystery and strange tenderness. Thaisa Frank has written one of the most compelling stories of the Nazi regime since D.M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a book that will haunt you.”
—DAN CHAON, AUTHOR OF AWAIT YOUR REPLY

“Thaisa Frank has composed a mesmeric image of prisoners trapped in the madness of a decaying Nazi regime. Ms. Frank’s skillfully laced prose and riveting imagery combine to create an unforgettably surrealistic portrait of a world gorged on insanity.”
—THOMAS STEINBECK, AUTHOR OF DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA


Also there is an Excerpt from Heidegger’s Glasses.

Although history was one of my college majors, I handled the delivery of Heidegger’s Glasses Uncorrected Proof with wariness. Glowing words for a tale that included the Reich, Auschwitz, Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels, SS leader Henrich Himmler were bound to be hauntingly depressing. But then I remembered anecdotal “stories” of Germany housing fluently linguistic scribes to write letters for the dead. Hitler’s reliance on astrology and the occult were facts, yet the idea of these scribes being saved from death to write for the dead sounded too ironic as well as absurd. Now could it have been true?

Writing brilliantly and mystically, Thaisa Frank has brought the scribes’ story to life and, though fictionalized, it rings true. Honest, sobering, and fairy tale hopeful, this is historical fiction at its best by acknowledging the humanity amidst the insanity of Hitler’s Germany during the end of World War 11.

The woman’s voice — that Thaisa first heard over twenty years ago — is Elie Schacten, considered to be an “angel.” Whether providing for the scribes and/or attempting to save as many innocent lives as possible, Elie is the mystery of the tale. Yet who is she, really?

Thoroughly engrossing Heidegger’s Glasses is mindful of how our present needs to be aware of our past. Thaisa Frank’s debut novel is something special, deserving to be on everyone’s TBR list — hopefully on high school required reading too. Please remember that the release date has been changed…yet your patience will be rewarded once the book becomes available.

Book Giveaway: This week Thaisa Frank has graciously offered The Divining Wand two signed copies of Heidegger’s Glasses to be given away in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winner to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return on Monday to possibly claim your book.

AND

Announcement: The winners of All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa by Kim Stagliano are Tiffany and Wendy C. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Thaisa Frank and Heidegger’s Glasses

May 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

HEIDEGGGER'SGLASSES
According to The New York Times, the fiction of Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) works “by a tantalizing sense of indirection.” The critic Don Skiles has described her stories as being “in the grand tradition of the fairy tale, the legend, the spell,” while the reviewer Rob Hurwitt has called her work “domestic magical realism.” From Thaisa’s guest post, Do I Choose My Material or Does It Choose Me?, however, this acclaimed writer states: “I would say that I don’t work in the tradition of magic realism but in the tradition of surrealism.” And that is clearly what she’s done in her first novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, debuting soon. [The release has been delayed, but its new date will be noted here as soon as possible.]

Over twenty years ago, even the content of the book chose the unknowing author, as Thaisa explained in in her February 17, 2010 Red Room blog post, “The Promise of First Pages:”

The imagination is the weather of the mind.
Wallace Stevens, Adagia.

“How many of us have started promising beginnings only to have them sputter out, take wrong turns, and just refuse to go on? And how many of us say about ourselves ‘”I just can’t seem to finish things even though I start them?”‘

“Over twenty years ago, when I’d written just one collection of short stories, I heard a woman’s voice from deep below the earth. She lived in Germany during World War II and was helping people answer letters to the dead. I knew her name. I could feel her claustrophobia. I also heard some of the letters. I wrote sixteen pages and stopped because I knew this woman lived in a world with so many strands only a novel could do it justice. I could even hear the length, like a few musical notes surrounded by hours of silence. But I only knew how to write short fiction.

“I wrote other books. But the sixteen pages kept turning up in my studio, as if attached to springs. They turned up on the bookshelf. They turned up in a tax pile. They turned up under my printer. They even turned up inside a flyer from my son’s school–a long flyer, pleading for ecologically-packed lunches. They began to feel like a letter from the woman in the mine, asking me to tell her story. The paper grew more brittle and the typewriter print more antiquated. From time to time I saw her writing in a large room with other people. I always read the sixteen pages. I felt drawn to them. But I always put them away.

“A few years ago, someone at a Christmas party told me that the philosopher Martin Heidegger once had a revelation that was caused by his own eyeglasses. As soon as I heard this, I saw the title Heidegger’s Glasses and knew I was going to write a novel. I had no idea what it would be about; but I was sure it involved World War II. I didn’t think about those sixteen pages until I’d written the novel and received the galleys. Then I found them–again on invisible springs–as if they were determined to remind me that they were the origin of the book. I read them over and realized they were a DNA of almost everything that became Heidegger’s Glasses. I also realized that even though they were about an imaginary world, the world was launched by real events in World War II. I didn’t know about these events when I wrote those pages. I only found out about them afterwards, when I began to write the novel.” Please read more….

Thaisa Frank’s imagination, research and writing evolved into this synopsis:

A love affair larger than a World War.
A fairy tale with atrocities.
And it all begins with one single letter….

Heidegger’s Glasses is the startling, surreal debut novel from critically acclaimed author Thaisa Frank. The Third Reich’s obsession with the occult has led them to create the Compound of Scribes. Concealed in a converted mine shaft complete with rose-colored cobblestone streets and a continuously shifting artificial sky, the Scribes’ sole mission is to answer letters written to the dead—thereby preventing the deceased from pestering psychics for answers and inadvertently exposing the Final Solution.

As Germany falls apart at its seams, a letter arrives written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist and friend, a man now lost in the dying thralls at Auschwitz. The presence of Heidegger’s words—one simple letter in a place filled with letters—sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and wellbeing of the entire Compound.

Part love story and part historical fiction, Heidegger’s Glasses evocatively reconstructs the landscape of Nazi Germany from an entirely original and haunting vantage point.

Much like a Grimm fairy tale, Heideggger’s Glasses has garnered Advance Praise, including fellow authors:


“This is stunning work, full of mystery and strange tenderness. Thaisa Frank has written one of the most compelling stories of the Nazi regime since D.M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a book that will haunt you.”
—DAN CHAON, AUTHOR OF AWAIT YOUR REPLY

“Thaisa Frank has composed a mesmeric image of prisoners trapped in the madness of a decaying Nazi regime. Ms. Frank’s skillfully laced prose and riveting imagery combine to create an unforgettably surrealistic portrait of a world gorged on insanity.”
—THOMAS STEINBECK, AUTHOR OF DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA


Also there is an Excerpt from Heidegger’s Glasses.

Although history was one of my college majors, I handled the delivery of Heidegger’s Glasses Uncorrected Proof with wariness. Glowing words for a tale that included the Reich, Auschwitz, Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels, SS leader Henrich Himmler were bound to be hauntingly depressing. But then I remembered anecdotal “stories” of Germany housing fluently linguistic scribes to write letters for the dead. Hitler’s reliance on astrology and the occult were facts, yet the idea of these scribes being saved from death to write for the dead sounded too ironic as well as absurd. Now could it have been true?

Writing brilliantly and mystically, Thaisa Frank has brought the scribes’ story to life and, though fictionalized, it rings true. Honest, sobering, and fairy tale hopeful, this is historical fiction at its best by acknowledging the humanity amidst the insanity of Hitler’s Germany during the end of World War 11.

The woman’s voice — that Thaisa first heard over twenty years ago — is Elie Schacten, considered to be an “angel.” Whether providing for the scribes and/or attempting to save as many innocent lives as possible, Elie is the mystery of the tale. Yet who is she, really?

Thoroughly engrossing Heidegger’s Glasses is mindful of how our present needs to be aware of our past. Thaisa Frank’s debut novel is something special, deserving to be on everyone’s TBR list — hopefully on high school required reading too. Please remember that the release date has been changed…yet your patience will be rewarded once the book becomes available.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Thaisa Frank’s Heidegger’s Glasses in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Thaisa Frank: Do I Choose My Material or Does It Choose Me?

May 05, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[The profile of Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet), in last week’s Revealing Q&A, mentioned magic realism regarding her debut novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, releasing May 25, 2010. And that mention prompted Suzanne to write me with the following:

Do authors consciously choose their writing style and genre, or is it simply the only way they can write? for instance, I was really intrigued by your profile of Thaisa Frank yesterday….I would love to be able to write magic realism, as her profile mentioned to be able to create a character who disguises herself as furniture, but I’m not sure I have the imagination to pull it off.

Thaisa appreciated the question and, in today’s guest post, she answers how it worked for her when writing Heidegger’sGlasses.]

It’s always interesting to listen to questions because they make me think about other people see my work since I can never see it for the first time. Also, questions like yours, Suzanne, help me understand the way I write–in this case whether I choose a particular way of writing or whether it chooses me. So thanks for asking about whether I chose magic realism.

I think a miraculous sense of the world chose me long before I was in a position to choose. Since being a little kid I was hard-wired to see the absurdity of the world, to daydream, and to wonder about the limits of language.

But before I get into that, I would say that I don’t work in the tradition of magic realism but in the tradition of surrealism. Even though these categories are often used interchangeably there’s actually a big difference because magic realism invariably involves a community of people who believe in some magical force that exists in the world (often contact with the dead, the ability to time travel, the appearance of angels, sometimes the belief in the totemic nature of objects.)

The world of magic realism, in other words, is an extraordinary world. It’s a world where magic penetrates the ordinary. Surrealism, on the other hand, posits one absurd situation in a perfectly ordinary world. (A man wakes up transformed into a huge bug, or is accused of a crime he never committed and isn’t even named). The ordinary world is determined to proceed according to its plodding, often legalistic, ordinary laws.

A Hundred Years of Solitude, by Marquez is a good example of magic realism. People commune with the dead and can see their dreams. In The Trial, by Kafka, a man is accused of a crime he not only hasn’t committed, but which is never spelled out to him. He has nothing magic to resort to, but must appeal to the plodding legal system. This absurd situation shines a lens on the absurdity of the legal system.

Heidegger’s Glasses certainly touches upon a community that believes in the occult. But only a few characters in the book are part of that community, and the two protagonists are definitely not part of it. What becomes surreal is the premise that there are people who answer letters to the dead in an underground mine that has been converted into a romantic 19th-Century world, with a cobblestone street, gas lamps, and a canopy of sky that changes from night to day. This world is an absurd dream in the midst of a Germany’s failing war.

Without question, this world chose me. I could see the underground mine long before I knew what people were doing there. One of my favorite phrases is by Wallace Stevens from Adagia in which he says the imagination is the weather of the mind. I don’t really know what the “imagination” is. It seems to come from outside of the self, to be far beyond the world of dreams. But the point is not where it comes from. The point is that the image of the underground mine felt given to me. It was as though I discovered something that already existed.

Later, when the book fleshed out, the mine became a logical extension of carrying the Reich’s concerns to an extreme. (These extremes include a concern for record-keeping, a belief in the occult and an obsession with architecture and the 19th century.)

As is the in all my stories, I invariably discover that the particular extreme has universal resonance. In this case, the extremism isn’t just about the Reich. It shines a lens on aspects of conflict in the world today. This may be why I ended it in the 21st century. But long before I had any conceptual picture of the novel, I knew the last scene–where it was in time, who the character was, and where it took place. Paradoxically, then, the imaginative and surreal landscapes shine a lens on the ordinary world.

But I want to return to question of what the writer chooses because your question, Suzanne, made me think about a fairy-tale element in Heidegger’s Glasses.

Fairy tales are neither magic realism nor surrealism. They don’t require a belief in the supernatural. But they come from a distant past where wolves can talk and enchanted people can wake up. They create deeply shared cultural images because most of us learn them as children. They draw upon a cultural imagination and don’t require a belief in magic.

The fairy-tale element also felt like something that chose me. But once I saw this element I brought it into bolder relief, finding places and people that felt prone to enchantment.

Yet to tell you more about why I did that would be to swim in waters that are beyond language–and make up a story about why I told a story a certain way. Perhaps The Black Forest, which figures in the book, reminded me of the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Perhaps I felt that the character who most believes in the occult was prone to becoming enchanted. And perhaps I wanted to lift World War II further into my imagination and the reader’s imagination so we all could see it better, because imagination offers distance. Or perhaps the fairy tale is simply very deep in me.

In the course of writing this blog I realize I don’t use this element in my short stories. And it interests me that it came out in a novel.

I hope these have answered some questions about the way I work. Also–below–I’ve listed some writers who work in magic realism, surrealism–or both, as well as one writer who works with the fairy tale. Please feel free to write me at thaisa@thaisafrank.com if you have questions. And, Larramie, thanks for inviting me to do this blog.

Note: Magic realism and surrealism aren’t fantasy. In fantasy one never quite forgets that one is reading make-believe. In magic realism and surrealism the reader suspends disbelief.

Magical realists:
Marquez: A Hundred Years of Solitude;
Voltaire: (New Viking Penguin Edition of Voltaire in which I have an Author’s Afterward talking about elements in Voltaire that might be helpful in understanding magic realism)
I.B. Singer: (Short Friday is a good short story collection with which to start.)
Borges: Labyrinths, Ficciones,

Both Surr:alism and Magic Realism:
Borges: Dr. Brody’s Report

Surrealism:
Marquez: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
Kafka: Metamorphosis, The Trial, The Castle
Gogol: The Nose

The Fairy Tale:
Almost any collection by Angela Carter

Fantasy:
Lord of the Rings: Tolkien
The Wizard of Earthsea: Ursula LeGuine

* * * * *

[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away the five books of the Sisters 8 series, including the latest — Marcia’s Madness. Anyone leaving a comment on this post will be entered into a random drawing with the winner receiving ALL five books! The deadline for this giveaway is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced in tomorrow’s post.

The Revealing of Thaisa Frank

April 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Critically acclaimed for her short story collections, ThaisaFrankThaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) debuts with first novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, on May 25, 2010.

Set in the final days of World War II, the novel explores an underground compound of scribes hidden deep in the German forest. And, as imposing and dark as this book may sound, please think of Grimm’s fairy tales. The Divining Wand is scheduled to present/review Heidegger’s Glasses on Monday, May 17, 2010 but, for now, meet Thaisa Frank through her “official” bio:

Thaisa Frank grew up in the Midwest and the Bronx, the granddaughter of a Presbyterian theologian and a Rumanian Chassid, who consulted each other about Aramaic texts. Her father was a professor of medieval English and her mother a director of small theater groups.

Her fiction, characterized by the critic Rob Hurwitt as “domestic magical realism,” inevitably draws on a bi-cultural childhood in which, for two thirds of the year, she lived in a sedate suburb of Illinois and for a third of the year in the colorful, immigrant world of New York. In her stories, men glow in the dark, the letter writer for Howard Hughes reveals his passions, a woman camouflages herself as furniture, a child has too many mothers to remember, and two circus performers go through the eye of a needle. Her collections also include novellas that take place in the Midwest and reveal the journey of a family. Upcoming work is a novel about a nearly mythical haven in the holocaust the safety of which is threatened forever.

She earned an honors degree in philosophy of science and logic from Oberlin College, studied graduate linguistics and philosophy at Columbia and worked as a psychotherapist before becoming a fulltime writer. She has traveled extensively in France and England, and currently lives in Oakland, California.

With this impressive background and gifted talent, what surprises will Thaisa reveal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Had it all but not all at once.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Somehow I get things done.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Great sex.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Falling from a great height.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Under the night sky of the other hemisphere.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Jonathon Swift.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My son.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Totally. (And some expletives.)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: The art of great tango dancing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Getting out of my completely crazy family of origin.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Impatience.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not having more children.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A cat with a person’s consciousness.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My sense of the absurd.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Piccoline in Par Lagerqvist’s The Dwarf.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A:I would like to meet someone who participated in the ancient Greek games. And I would say that I was amazed to meet them.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who play emotional karate.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Staring into space.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Doing something creative that involves other people but is also steady work. For example–being a great Off Broadway director.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion
A sense of the absurd
Generosity

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Fresh tomatoes

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Dreams (the Cranberries)
One Arm One Love (Bob Marley)
Anything that Cat Power sings (don’t make me choose!)
Motherland (Natalie Merchant)
Solomon ( actually Saloman in German) Lotte Leyna)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Dwarf by Par Lagerqvist
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
The Axe (in four separate books) by Sigrid Undset
All short Stories and parables by Kafka
Remainder by Tom McCarthy

To read more of Thaisa’s fascinatig thoughts/writings, please visit her Redroom blog.

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[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please visit tomorrow to possibly claim your book. Good luck!