• Birth—April 21, 1960
• Where—Phoenix, Arizona, USA
• Education—B.A., Barnard College
• Currently—lives in New York City and Long Island
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor. (From the publisher.)
Her own words:
When I sat down to write The Glass Castle, there was no doubt in my mind that once the truth about me was out I would lose all my friends and my job. So far, the reaction has been the opposite. I'm just stunned. I think I've shortchanged people and their capacity for compassion. The whole experience has changed my outlook on the world. My brother and I are closer. My sister Lori and I have discussed things we'd never before talked about. I'm back in touch with people I knew in West Virginia whom I hadn't spoken to since I left. My mother wants to correct something in the book: She wants everyone to know that she's an excellent driver.
When I was growing up, I always loved animals. But it was a part of myself that I'd let go dormant as an adult. Writing The Glass Castle, I was reminded of how important animals had always been to me, and that love was reawakened. Not long ago, I rescued two racing greyhounds, Emma and Leopold, and I'm irrationally devoted to them. In the spring of 2005, Jeannette Walls took some time to tell us about some of her favorite books, authors, and interests.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith [is the book that influenced me the most]....It had a powerful effect on my view of the world and first made me realize how much of an emotional wallop — and comfort — a book could deliver. I read it when I was 11 or 12 and was stunned that a character created 50 years earlier seemed so similar to me. She loved her father even though he was a hopeless drunk, she lived in a rough neighborhood but found beauty in it, and she was determined to make something of her life.
If [I] had a book club, [we] would it be reading...Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I find books that have a moral and spiritual center, that speak to what is really important and lasting, hugely appealing.
Books are my very favorite gift to give. If you give a book to someone and they really respond to it, you feel you've actually changed their life in some way. I recently gave my father-in-law both volumes of William Manchester's biography of Churchill — and we had long, animated conversations about him and history and the psychology and greatness. If a book really moves me, I'll sometimes buy several copies for friends and give them out even if there's no occasion. I bought The Lovely Bones for four or five people. If someone's not much of a reader, I try to find a book that speaks to one of their passions. Whenever I'm reading a book I enjoy, I always develop a mental list of the people I want to share it with. I love it when people reciprocate; when they call me up and tell me they're reading a great book and can't wait for me to read it. That's how I heard about Gilead.
I write on a 19th-century oak table, in front of a window overlooking a wisteria-covered arbor.... [W]hen I wrote The Glass Castle, I wrote it entirely on the weekends, getting to my desk by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and continuing until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. I wrote the first draft in about six weeks — but then I spent three or four years rewriting it. My husband, John Taylor, who is also a writer, observed all this approvingly and quoted John Fowles, who said that a book should be like a child: conceived in passion and reared with care.
I've been a journalist for almost 20 years and wrote one nonfiction book about the history of the tabloid press. But writing The Glass Castle was an entirely different experience. I was writing about myself and about intensely personal — and potentially embarrassing — experiences. Over the last 25 years, I wrote several versions of this memoir — sometimes pounding out 220 pages in a single weekend — but I always threw out the pages. Once I tried to fictionalize it, but that didn't work either. It took me this long to figure out how to tell the story. (From a 2005 Barnes & Noble interviw.)
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