Nicotine

Christopher Tayler writes:

Nell Zink has a great backstory. She’s the woman who came out of nowhere – or, on closer inspection, out of a busy background of Virginia boarding schools, bricklaying, postpunk fanzine production and hand-to-mouth endeavours in Israel and Germany – to publish, in her early fifties, a pair of novels that made her the talk of Brooklyn. The first of them, The Wallcreeper (2014), was written in three weeks in order to make a point to Jonathan Franzen, who’d become a pen pal after being impressed by a letter she’d sent him out of the blue about the birds of the western Balkans. (Her point was that she could write a novel if she chose to, though she had the ancillary aim, she has said, of ‘educating him about anal sex from a female perspective’.) A lot of her writing has similarly grown out of correspondence, and an arrestingly chatty mode of address carries over into her fiction, along with a desire to tease and startle.

(LRB 2 March 2017)

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