Septembers of Shiraz (Sofer)

Author Bio 
Where—Tehran, Iran
Reared—New York, New York
Education—B.A., New York University; M.F.A, Sarah
Currently—New York, New York

Dalia Sofer was born in Iran and fled at the age of ten to the United States with her family. She received her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 and has been a resident at Yaddo. In March 2007 she was the first recipient of the Sirenland Fellowship, given each year to an unpublished author to attend the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy.

She has been a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered, Poets & Writers magazine, the National Poetry Almanac of the Academy of American Poets, and the New York Sun. Her essays, "Of These, Solitude" and "A Prenuptial Visit to Chartres" were included, respectively, in the anthologies Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism (2001) and France, a Love Story (2004). She lives in New York City. (From Barnes & Noble, courtesy HarperCollins.)

From a 2007 interview with Barnes and Noble editors:

• "My first job was in retail in a clothing store on Madison Avenue. (It was the most ruthless job I've ever had, because I experienced, firsthand, the raw rudeness of people. Nowhere else can you find the sordid depths of the human soul than you can as a shop clerk on Madison Avenue!)

• "I like to take very long walks in the city—sometimes as long as seventy or eighty blocks. Walking shakes things up inside me. It is the best mood stabilizer.

• "I am fascinated by religious iconography. This began in Assisi, Italy, where I spent some time many years ago."

• When asked about what book influenced her most as a writer, she responded:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I first read this book, in high school, I found it to be a simple but beautiful account of the lackadaisical spirit and eventual malaise of the 1920s. It was years later, on subsequent readings, that I took note of the many layers that make it such a rich and satisfying novel. Nick Carraway, the narrator, discovers Gatsby's story bit by bit - some parts true, others lies - from overheard gossip or from Gatsby himself. Flashbacks intersect with the present story of the summer of 1922, filling the gaps as the plot continues to move forward. In the end the pieces come together like those of an intricate puzzle. I was struck by Fitzgerald's use of symbols, such as colors. When Nick first sees Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker they are both wearing white dresses, which were "rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house."

This points to the women's innocence, but also to their lack of substance. Gatsby wears silver and gold when he goes to visit Daisy for the first time after five years, and the green light at Daisy's dock, which taunts Gatsby, symbolizes the simplified version of the American dream. Another prominent symbol is the vigilant pair of eyes over the "valley of the ashes," signifying the witnessing of the waste and purposelessness of the 1920s—a reference perhaps to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The passage introducing the valley is filled with images of dust and smoke, and it is in this valley that carelessness finally ends with a death. I love, too, how Fitzgerald weaves the inevitable passage of time throughout the novel: Gatsby believes that time does not alter things. When he meets Daisy at Nick's house for the first time after five years, his nervousness makes him knock the clock over. Later, Daisy's child becomes a physical representation of the passage of time, and in the end Nick Carraway notes that it's his thirtieth birthday—a sobering realization that the "roaring twenties" are over. Like a hand-woven fabric that seems simple and straightforward at first glance, this book is constructed of multiple, delicate layers—only noticeable on close inspection. This, I think, is how a great book should be." (Author interview from Barnes & Noble.)

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