Tess is really better known as a poet but she is also a fiction writer, essayist and playwright. She was famously married to Raymond Carver and is responsible for releasing Raymond's un-Gordon Lished stories i.e the original versions of the stories as Carver intended them to be. But Tess read one of her own stories last night, a stunning piece called 'Girls' which is about ageing, friendship, women, mothers/daughters. It was funny and moving, and had a clarity and lightness of touch that I simply loved. It was a long story but, despite crushing tiredness, I was riveted. The story is from her collection The Lover of Horses (written when she was with Ray) but is now available in her selected, The Man from Kinvara.
In an afternoon interview, Tess talked about her and Ray Carver's mutual support of each other's writing. I was transported to her glass house - 'Sky House' - in Washington and their place in Syracuse, NY, as she spoke. She said Ray helped her put tension into her work and he was a good editor: 'He could really skin it down. He was an acute cutter of things. Slash! Slash!' she said.
She also said, 'We had a fantastic time collaborating. It was friendly; there was a great atmosphere. We stimulated and encouraged each other very much.' I've always thought it would be nightmarish (for me) to be married to another writer. They seem to have managed it enviably well.
She said another great thing about short fiction writing, with which I would concur, especially as I am now back writing stories and, as a non-plotter, I am groping my way through the process, feeling like a beginner all over again:
'Writing fiction, you are going off on safari and you don't know if you have the goods packed that you need.' Well said.
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As a complete aside, the stage for the readings is dressed beautifully with a sculpture of a dog reading one of Frank O'Connor's books, a Philippe Starck chair among other cool chairs, a sheepskin rug, and an art installation of weirded out dolly heads by Mark Noone. They are spooky and compelling. Here's a couple of pics:
Mark Noone's doll head artwork