By Flora Carr
“The Comedies end juggling… the characters are like a troupe of Chinese acrobats balanced on a pyramid of chairs… if it ceased to be precarious… it would not excite” (Trapido 218). Within her novel Juggling Barbara Trapido likens Shakespeare’s comedies to the act of juggling. It is a comparison which lends itself to this essay’s argument, which will attempt to prove that the balances of power between both Orlando and Rosalind (As You Like It) and Petruchio and Katherine (The Taming of the Shrew) are never equal but constantly shifting and always in opposition. As a juggler catches one ball in his hand, his other hand has already thrown the second ball high into the air, a movement that continues in a cyclical pattern. In the same way as one lover rises in power, the other falls. This ‘battle between the sexes’ (Dusinberre 219), a ‘constant… mating dance’ (Trapido 219) is also cyclical, and requiring both balance and visual symmetry. Thus this relationship of inverse proportions is dictated purely by appearances.
It is through appearances that Rosalind gains power. Prior to her decision to ‘suit… all points like a man’ (1.3.108) Rosalind shows little of the dynamism that emerges within the Forest of Arden. In Duke Frederick’s court it is her cousin Celia who takes the initiative rather than Rosalind; it is she who suggests their flight, that Arden should be their goal and that they adopt ‘poor and mean attire’ (1.3.103). In Act 1 Scene 2 Rosalind states that she cannot be taught to ‘forget a banished father’ (5); she is morose and disgraced by association. ‘We see her as a dependent, almost a captive’ (Murphy Jameson 118); she is presented, at the play’s beginning, as a traditional damsel in distress confined in an unwelcoming court. As in the conventional fairytale, following the presentation of the damsel in distress a handsome suitor and potential rescuer arrives. On meeting the ‘excellent young man’ (1.2. 170) Orlando, Rosalind bids him to wear a chain from about her neck. It is a gesture reminiscent of Arthurian legends where, in the vein of courtly love, a woman will present her suitor with a token. Rosalind is rendered a damsel in distress by her uncle and, through her actions, she affirms this status. Rosalind is reduced to a woman in need of rescuing, apparently by Orlando, a man. Simone de Beauvoir, borrowing from Derrida, states that women are defined only through binary logic. Man defines woman in relation to himself- she is not autonomous. There are multiple examples of this binary logic at work in Renaissance culture Catherine Belsey points to a 1545 painting of Henry VIII’s family where Jane Seymour is portrayed rather than any of Henry’s three subsequent wives. This is because she is the ‘mother of the heir’ (172); her privileged status only determined by her relation to a man, her son.
However, following Rosalind’s visual transformation into the ‘saucy page’ (Murphy Jameson 120) Ganymede, there is a power shift. Previously Orlando, set up to become the knight in shining armour, seemed the more dominant, but in Arden Rosalind is the more assertive. It is her disguise, her appearance as a man, which enables this. Freed from constraints, she initiates much of the play’s action, for example she engineers the play’s dénouement. She also asserts herself over Orlando, ridiculing his poetry and his attempts to assert himself as a “Petrarchan” lover, telling him that ‘men have died… and worms have eaten them, but not for love’(87-89). Judith Butler argues that gender is performative, a social and cultural construct. Rosalind is subversive and rejects this need to posture her femininity; in this way gender as a concept becomes more fluid and she is free from restrictions denoted by her sex. Belsey argues that female transvestism in As You Like It ‘throws into relief the patriarchal assumptions of the period’ (180). The idea that ‘beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold’ (1.3.103) suggests that ‘rape is a consequence not of what women are but of what men believe they are’ (Belsey 180). Therefore, whilst initially Rosalind dons the appearance of a man for the practical reason of avoiding ‘danger’ (1.3.100), in doing so she is ‘allow(ed)…authority… only on the condition that (she)… seem(s) to be (a) man’ and so unsettles the categories which legitimise patriarchy.
Conversely, Belsey also argues that Rosalind’s dominance cannot last: ‘At the end of…(the) story the heroine abandons her disguise and dwindles into a wife’ (187). Jean E. Howard argues that Rosalind ‘could be a threatening figure if she did not constantly… reveal herself to the audience…(as) a lovesick maid’ (350). Despite ‘lording it over Orlando’ (350), once his presence is removed Rosalind becomes forlorn and vulnerable: “I’ll go find a shadow and sigh till he come” (4.1.180). For Howard this constitutes a reminder of Rosalind’s femininity, ‘endearing her to earlier generations of readers and audiences for her true “womanliness”’ (351). Howard is correct; Anna Murphy Jameson, a Victorian critic, states that she ranks Rosalind more highly than some other Shakespearean heroines as ‘the greater degree of her sex’s softness… united equally with wit… give her superiority as a woman’ (118). The audience becomes aware, even as Rosalind is in power, that inevitably she will lose her dominance: the juggling ball will fall. Whilst she has the appearance of Ganymede Rosalind maintains her dominance. However, after this is removed there is nothing left but the besotted girl the audience has been privy to. Rendered vulnerable, and once again restricted by her sex, Orlando gains power by default.
Unlike Rosalind, Katherine asserts dominance at the beginning of The Taming of the Shrew. A ‘human wild-cat’ (Palmer 114), Katherine holds her sister’s marital fate in her hands. Her power and self-assurance is evident. However, similarly to Rosalind she is forced to adopt a different appearance for practical reasons, resulting in a shift in power between herself and Petruchio. At the beginning of the play Petruchio has fallen on hard times and has ‘come to wive it wealthily in Padua’ (1.2. 73). He is commercially powerless and reliant on Katherine’s consent to wed. However, whilst Orlando only gains or loses power as a result of Rosalind’s actions and appearance, by contrast Petruchio takes a far more active role in compelling Katherine into adopting a new outward persona, resulting in her loss of power. His effective starving of Katherine in Act 4 Scene 1, ‘expressly… forbid(ing)’ (151) her to eat the clearly satisfactory mutton which has been presented to them is evidence of this. For the sake of self-preservation, Katherine must adopt her own disguise, her own costume: the appearance of a dutiful wife.
Both Petruchio and the social restrictions placed on her sex force Katherine to adopt this appearance. In her essay ‘Household Kates: Domesticating Commodities in The Taming of the Shrew’, Natasha Korda points to the economic implications of the text. As a woman of substantial wealth (her dowry is worth ‘twenty thousand crowns’ (2.1.120)), Katherine is an ‘excessive consum(er)’ (158). However, Petruchio’s mercantile class status means that he is driven to restrict Katherine’s consumption whilst still maintaining the appearance of affluence or ‘symbolic capital’ (162). His arrival at his own wedding dressed in tatters is intended to illustrate the poverty and all its appearances which Kate will bring if she continues to freely spend. Similarly to Rosalind Petruchio dons a costume in order to assert his power, as he reminds Katherine that he is now in control of her wealth and therefore her spending habits. Driven by appearances himself, Petruchio initiates Katherine’s own new outward persona.
Prior to her marriage to Petruchio Katherine is ‘shrewd’ and ‘ill-favoured’ (1.2.58): “Katherine the Curst, / A title for a maid of all titles the worst” (1.2.125). Utterly undesirable, she represents a female stereotype: the shrew. The fiery element of her courtship with Petruchio ensues with much comic effect. However, once married this cannot continue. Although sparring couples are common within Shakespearean plays, for example Beatrice and Benedict, marital harmony is inevitable. A feisty maid may be acceptable, but a feisty wife is not. At the time Shakespeare was writing there were multiple disciplinary practises reserved for wives deemed ‘scolds’ ( Howard 347), for example the ducking stool or else the ‘scold’s bridle’ during the 17th century. ‘Unruly’ (346) wives were either punished or suspected of being ‘whores…the open mouth signifying sexual incontinence’ (345). Despite her apparent strength of character Katherine responds to societal pressures and conventions, as evidenced by her humiliation at her wedding. Acknowledging the risks of being a scolding wife, she adopts the appearance of an obedient wife. Similarly to Rosalind, the fact that Katherine is able to flit from shrew to wife so quickly suggests that ‘identity…is fluid’ (Belsey 188). Her nature has not been tamed; instead she has donned a costume. There is therefore the potential for her to shed it just as easily.
The language of Katherine’s final speech bears all the appearances of submission, as she bids other women to ‘place your hands below your husband’s foot’ (5.2.181). Henrietta Palmer stated during the 19th century that ‘no one out of the dangerous circle of Woman’s Right can possibly find fault’ with Katherine’s ‘little speech’ (114). However, I would argue that as a performance the speech re-establishes Katherine’s old power. Juliet Dusinberre states that ‘(Katherine’s) speech steals the show. Beneath an ostensible message of humility, it generates the suppressed exhilaration of its stage power’ (234). Katherine will not obey either social or theatrical conventions, even when preaching obedience. Rather than submitting gracefully, she launches into a lengthy, scene-stealing speech. Katherine speaks when she is not supposed to. She reclaims stage power ‘even if the price of it is a speech on social submission’ (233). In this way appearance- or rather Katherine’s appearance onstage- strips her disguise as a dutiful wife. Various film adaptations have portrayed this interpretation. In Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 adaptation of the play Elizabeth’s Taylor’s Katherine seems sincere in her delivery of the speech; however, her quick exit following this forces Richard Burton’s Petruchio to run after her, to jeers from the surrounding crowd. The 1929 film version is even more explicit, as during her final speech Mary Pickford’s Katherine faces the camera and winks toward Bianca, unseen by Petruchio. Bianca’s returning smile acknowledges that Katherine has not been tamed at all. Dusinberre also states the implications a boy ‘apprentice’ playing Katherine would have brought to the speech in performances during the Shakespearean period. She draws a link between the apprentice and the women in the audience, both of whom must bow to submission at the end of the performance. Dusinberre asks ‘did the women in the audience register the exhilaration of the apprentice actor seizing his chance to become master…?’ (233). ‘The boy actor invites women in the audience to participate not in what he says but in the theatrical power’ (235) of those words. There is power in Katherine, apparent in both theatrical and filmic performances. In this play Shakespeare allows the apprentice to upstage the master in the closing scene, for the wife to upstage the husband. The audience sees perhaps the beginning of another power shift between Katherine and Petruchio- the brief moment when the two juggling balls are suspended in the air, one rising, one falling.
In both plays there is no ‘space for mutuality within relations of dominance’ (Howard 350). Instead it is a constant struggle for power between lovers, each individual winning ‘point(s)’ (Trapido 219). It’s a game of one-upmanship, determined by appearances. Both Katherine and Rosalind don disguises in order to avoid danger. Rosalind’s appearance as Ganymede liberates her and gives her the power to manipulate the play’s plot. However, Rosalind’s description of her ‘holiday humour’ (4.1.57) and the idealistic setting of the Forest of Arden in which she cross-dresses bring to mind the Renaissance festival ‘The Lord of Misrule’, where for a day commoners could dress and act as kings and gentry. It is as anarchistic as Rosalind’s transvestism, and yet ‘holiday inversions of order… can merely reconfirm the existing order’ (Howard 350) by allowing a little transgression to make up for drab daily life. In the same way Rosalind’s power is temporary and determined only by her disguise. At the end of the play she is once again besotted and feminine, bringing the power shift full circle. By contrast Katherine, whose power journey is also cyclical, loses power through adopting a new appearance. Her power lies not in appearances but in her own anarchic nature. Whilst Rosalind is liberated through her costume, society forces Katherine to don hers. In seemingly becoming the good wife she appears to bow to the pressures of patriarchy: “the women win on points, but men… have the points” (Trapido 219). However, it is a façade that can easily be shed. Thus, through presenting the startling effects of physical appearances and disguises on female characters Shakespeare portrays a subversive look at power dynamics in couples.
Flora Carr, University of Exeter
Beauvoir, Simone de. “The Second Sex.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed Vincent B. Leitch et al. USA: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. Print.
Belsey, Catherine. “Disrupting sexual differeance: meanings and gender in the comedies.” Alternative Shakespeares. Ed. John Drakakis. Suffolk: Metuen & Co. Ltd, 1985. Print.
Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed Vincent B. Leitch et al. USA: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. Print.
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Dusiberre, Juliet. “The Taming of the Shrew: Women, Acting and Power.” A Norton Critical Edition of ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ Ed. Dympna Callaghan. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
Howard, Jean. “Cross-dressing, the Theatre and Gender Struggles in Early Modern Britain.” A Norton Critical Edition of ‘As You Like It.’ Ed. Leah S. Marcus. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. Print.
Korda, Natasha. “Household Kates: Domesticating Commodities in ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’” A Norton Critical Edition of ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ Ed. Dympna Callaghan. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Suffolk: Penguin Classics, 2004. Print.
Murphy Jameson, Anna. Shakespeare’s Heroines. Canada: Broadview Editions, 2000. Print.
Palmer, Henrietta. “The Stratford Gallery; or the Shakespeare Sisterhood: Comprising Fourty-Five Ideal Portraits.” Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900: An anthology of criticism. Ed. Ann Thompson et al. USA: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Print.
Pickford, Mary, perf. The Taming of the Shrew. Dir. Sam Taylor. United Artists, 1929. Film.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It.Ed. Leah S. Marcus. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Taming the of the Shrew. Ed. Dympna Callaghan. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
Taylor, Elizabeth, perf. The Taming of the Shrew. Dir. Franco Ziffirelli. Columbia Pictures, 1967. Film.
Trapido, Barbara. Juggling. England: Hamish Hamilton, 1994. Print.
By Sue Dickman
I’ve always had a soft spot for a series. It goes back, I’m sure, to a childhood of repeatedly reading Maud Hart Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder and an adolescence spent inhaling detective novels by the dozen. In recent years, I’ve spent untold hours listening to the audio version of all twenty of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels. It’s not that I have a particular interest in British naval history. But give me characters I like and I will keep going, book after book, just to see what happens to them; just to keep in touch.
Barbara Trapido’s books are not exactly a traditional series. Still, four of her seven novels share a common set of characters and, if read in order, offer some of the pleasure of a series—chiefly, the chance to return to a well-loved fictional universe and revisit its characters over time.
The irony for me is that when I first discovered Trapido, I had no idea that any of her books were connected. I started, in fact, with the last of the four, her 1998 novel The Travelling Hornplayer, which I enjoyed with no foreknowledge whatsoever. But it was only when I learned its connection to her three earlier novels—Brother of the More Famous Jack (1982), Temples of Delight (1990), and Juggling (1994)—and read the books in sequence that I could appreciate the full scope of Trapido’s creation, her unique genius. So, it should be no surprise that my first bit of advice is to read her books in order, or, at least the four linked books. Her three unlinked novels—Noah’s Ark (1984), Frankie and Stankie (2003), and Sex and Stravinsky (2010)—are all also wonderful and can be read in whatever order you’d like.
The mystery, at least in the U.S., is why no one knows who she is. In my experience, to read Trapido is to want to read more Trapido and also to wonder why it is so hard to find the Trapido you so want to read. When her name comes up in the press, it is usually a mention in a column on underappreciated writers or on a list of someone’s favorite books. Maria Semple, author of last year’s wildly popular Where’d You Go, Bernadette, recommended two of Trapido’s books this way, and her citation for The Travelling Hornplayer begins, “Why don’t people know about her?” I have the same question.
Trapido does not have the same issue in Britain, where she has lived since 1963 and where she has a devoted audience. Since the publication of Brother of the More Famous Jack when she was 41, Trapido’s books have stayed in print in Britain, while only four of the seven have been published in the U.S. According to Trapido in a 2003 interview, American publishers have rejected her books for being “too British,” a statement she found strange, given that she was born and raised in South Africa. “Can’t they tell that I’m really just an anthropological observer in England?” she asked.
Trapido was born in Cape Town in 1941 into an “ethnically muddled” family. Her German mother and Dutch father settled in Durban, where she grew up. She wrote movingly about her childhood in apartheid-era South Africa in her sixth book, Frankie and Stankie, which is really a memoir posing as fiction. At the end of that book, as in her life, Trapido and her new husband Stanley left South Africa, thinking they might never return. Politically, 1963 was a horrible year, she has said; Nelson Mandela had just been arrested, activist friends of theirs were being jailed, and it seemed that the best thing—perhaps the only thing—was to go. They settled eventually in Oxford, where Stanley taught African history at the university and Barbara taught school, raised their two children, and—for many years in her head and in the middle of the night—wrote a novel.
It starts with voices. Trapido calls her writing process “audial,” and it has been this way from the beginning. She hears it before she writes it. Years before her first novel was published, Trapido “invented the Goldman family and found them talking inside [her] head,” she told the British magazine Mslexia. But after having a baby, she put the work away for ten years. In her late 30s, with her children both at school, she showed it to a friend who loved it and asked Trapido to continue for her. And so she did. “I’d be pushing swings in some playground and just pattering out dialogue in my head, learning sequences off by heart. Sometimes it would make me laugh wildly to myself. Or I’d bike off to the post office and get some notion and bike all the way to the railway station. I found it made me rather inefficient.”
That novel was Brother of the More Famous Jack. It is the story of a brainy but naïve young woman, Katherine Brown, who falls in love with a family of left-wing intellectuals, the Goldmans. Katherine has an affair with one Goldman brother, Roger, and eventually, years later, marries another, Jonathan, but the book is a love story to the family: the German-Jewish philosophy professor patriarch, Jacob, his Anglo-Irish wife Jane, and their six children. When you hear the Goldman family’s dinner table conversation, you can understand why Trapido would crack herself up thinking of it. At Katherine’s first dinner with the Goldmans, Jacob and his son Roger are arguing over whether Roger plays the violin or the fiddle. Roger insists it’s a violin.
“Save your Oxford style till you get to Christ Church, sonny,” Jacob says, with terrible put-down. “And in the meantime remember that to pick nits at my table with my guests is a form of bad manners.” Jonathan, promptly and hair-raisingly, throws a large chunk of garlic bread at Jacob’s head. It misses him and hits the wall behind.
“Fiddle schmiddle,” Jonathan says. “What’s all this ‘my table’ crap, Aged Parent? Ma bought this table from the shop that closed down. What makes it yours? You really like to make a big patriarchal spiel over grub, don’t you, you big Jewish yobbo.”
Nobody requires him to remember either his manners or the starving. Jacob merely instructs Sam in the subversive art of throwing the bread back. They appear to get on extremely well, do Jacob and Jonathan. Jacob is sufficiently opinionated to appreciate in Jonathan so much of himself.
“Make us some coffee, Flower,” he says benignly.
“Make it your bloody self, you schmuck,” Jonathan says.
Trapido first sent the book to Jonathan Cape, which rejected it. Six months later, she sent it to Victor Gollancz, Ltd., which accepted it immediately. Brother of the More Famous Jack was awarded a special fiction prize from the Whitbread committee and garnered the kind of reviews first novelists usually only dream of. The Times of London deemed it “the most sprightly, mucky, moving and downright funny novel . . . in decades.” A.N. Wilson, in the Spectator, called it “technically very accomplished and witty, but it achieves the casual intimacy of confidences shared over the washing-up. . . . It is really the story, like Mansfield Park, of falling in love with a whole family; a sort of left-wing Brideshead Revisited.”
Trapido’s second book, Noah’s Ark, is a dense, domestic portrait of an unlikely marriage, and it is the first of her novels to be partly set in South Africa. (Her last two are as well.) It was followed, six years later, by Temples of Delight, the second in Trapido’s four linked novels. Temples of Delight is, among other things, a paean to female friendships. Alice Pilling, Temples’ main character, is a shy, stammering teenager in a stuffy girls’ school whose life is changed irrevocably by the arrival of Jem McCrail, who turns up one day during silent reading hour and is placed beside her. Jem, a “joyful mystery” to Alice, is only present in the first third of the book—two years after her arrival, she vanishes after her scholarship is given to someone else, leaving Alice bereft—and yet her spirit is constant in the book and in Alice’s life. Alice does not take Jem’s disappearance well; her heart, it could be said, is broken. She goes on to Oxford and into other relationships, but the loss of Jem continues to affect her deeply. It is only four years later, when a letter from Jem arrives, that Alice is shaken back into life and the second half of the book gallops forward. There are elements of melodrama throughout—a stolen manuscript, a forged letter, an orphaned child, the arrival of a mysterious stranger named Giovanni Angeletti in a “voluminous black gabardine coat”—but even as the plot twists and turns, the emotional honesty beneath keeps the novel grounded. In his Guardian review of its sequel, Juggling, Philip Hensher writes: “A novel like Temples of Delight is so readable, so full of incidental pleasures and curiosities, that one could easily overlook its terrifying honesty. . . . In her readability, her richness, her plain, clear style, Trapido is quite like what Iris Murdoch is supposed to be, and once almost was.”
Trapido has said that she hadn’t intended to write a sequel to Temples of Delight, except that she found herself still brooding over Alice. In a long interview at The Literateur, Trapido says,
I hadn’t reintroduced characters until I wrote Juggling . . . I think the book’s motivation had to do with the fact that Temples of Delight . . . was such a troubling one for me that I was still . . . worrying about Alice . . . I’d been thinking, “Why is it that she’s only dragged out of her trance by these bright, charismatic but slightly unbalanced people like Jem, and then Giovanni?” . . . So I used Alice and her husband as a kind of backdrop to the story about Christina and her sister Pam, which meant I could unravel the mysteries of Alice’s head along the way.
While Mozart’s The Magic Flute serves as a backdrop for Temples of Delight, in Juggling the inspiration is Shakespeare, particularly his comedies. Alice and Giovanni are present, but their daughters, Christina and Pamina, take center stage, along with an expanding cast of characters and shifting points of view.
And that might have been the end of it, except that Trapido’s friend Michael Dibdin, the late author of the Aurelio Zen mysteries, told her that since she’d written two linked novels, she had to write three. In The Travelling Hornplayer, Trapido took the opportunity to revisit not just characters from Juggling and Temples of Delight but the Goldman family from Brother of the More Famous Jack, particularly Jonathan, Katherine, and their daughter Stella, a tiny baby at the end of the first book and a stunning, redheaded dyslexic cellist in the fourth. For Trapido, going back to her earlier work “was such a pleasure, because one gets so involved with one’s characters, and it’s a kind of bereavement when you have to bury them and make new friends.”
For the reader, the linked books allow us to see characters, both major and minor, in a new light. Roland Dent, for example, first appears in Temples of Delight as Alice’s would-be schoolmaster lover. Roland is upstanding and kind, the sort of man who “would have constructed an emergency survival shelter for her in the tundra if ever that had become necessary,” but Alice does not, cannot, love him as he wishes her to, and drives his car off of a bridge to avoid having to sleep with him. In Juggling, though, once he is no longer wooing Alice, Roland appears in a much friendlier light, avuncular, honest, stouthearted and steady. In the eyes of Alice’s spunky daughter Christina, “it was as if he had come trailing a bag of blessings from a calmer, kinder world.” Roland appears once more in The Travelling Hornplayer, a grieving father this time, and his pain is all the more difficult to bear for readers who have watched him evolve from earlier books. Trapido, clearly fond of Roland, says that she was even tempted to bring him back in her most recent novel, Sex and Stravinsky; one of the South African characters, Hattie, goes to visit her schoolmaster uncle in England. “As I wrote that,” Trapido says, “I thought, ‘I wonder if her uncle is Roland Dent?’”
There are many reasons why Trapido is not just critically praised but held so dearly by her many loyal readers. She’s a whiz at dialogue and detail. She’s laugh-out-loud funny. Her books are unexpected, heart-filled, buoyant. At the same time, Trapido is both a generous writer and a restrained one. I believe that it’s that combination of emotional restraint and generosity of spirit that makes her books so satisfying to read. Perhaps this comes from Trapido’s particular history, leaving her home country at a young age and making a life elsewhere, causing her to feel “inside-outside.” Perhaps it comes from her grounding in a family where “everyone . . . has always sort of left behind the houses and jewels and property and run from A to B with one small suitcase which they’ve usually dumped in a ditch on the way.” But it also might come from being a writer who came to writing late, whose life intruded for more than 20 years between the schoolgirl who loved to write stories and the mother of small children who took to waking in the middle of the night to write when she was closer to her dreams. Trapido’s work has been compared to any number of writers (Iris Murdoch, Ann Tyler, Flann O’Brien, to name just a few), but it is very distinctly her own. When she started to write seriously, she not only had the wisdom to know her own voice but the patience to figure out her own process (the 4 a.m. wakeups, writing longhand, reciting the book aloud before committing it to paper once again). Trapido is not a quick writer, but she doesn’t have to be. Having come to it in her own time, she now has the right to take her own time, and her devoted readers will be happy to wait for whatever might come next.
Click here to read a Q&A with Barbara Trapido.
Sue Dickman’s essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. She lives in Western Massachusetts and blogs at A Life Divided.
Homepage photo credit: mharrsch via photopincc