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Conversations & Interviews

Listen to these One Hundred Saturdays-related podcasts:

The Search for a Lost Jewish Community on Constant Wonder

The Lost World of Jewish Rhodes on Hebrew Union College’s College Commons Podcast

An opening-night conversation inaugurating Neuberger Holocaust Education Week on Canadian Jewish News’s Bonjour Chai

From a conversation with Jenni Frazer on The Jewish Chronicle:

“Frank tells me that it took him more than a year to decide that ‘this thing was bigger than I was’ — this thing being the fascinating weekly conversations he was having with a woman he dubbed “my modern-day Scheherazade”.

From a conversation with Maira Kalman about the paintings she made for One Hundred Saturdays on the Waterstones Blog:

“The paintings, to my mind, are another kind of encounter, another chance to try to capture at least aspects of Stella’s story. Where photographs are fixed, unmediated, and tend, sometimes, toward the literal, paintings, even when they are based on actual photographs, as Maira’s are, feel more porous and open to interpretation—to my mind more like stories themselves.”

From a conversation with Renee Ghert Zand in the Times of Israel:

“This was a slow, thoughtful, meticulous, sharing of a story between one human being and another. It required patience, trust, and lots of time”—Michael Frank

An interview with Stella Levi and Michael Frank on Haaretz

From a conversation with Evelyn Fink on Hey Alma:

“My conversations with Michael started a reevaluation of my life that continues to this day”—Stella Levi

From a conversation with Yona Zeldis McDonough on Lilith:

“Stella is deeply captivating, a great natural storyteller who is gifted with a remarkable and long memory, made even longer by having been the seventh-born child in her family.  It was as if all the family stories ended up in her lap—and brain.  Stella’s connection to what Henry James called the ‘visitable past’—the past that you can see and feel, almost touch—reaches back well into the nineteenth-century, when her grandmothers were born.  The more I listened, the more I thought that Stella’s story felt like a natural book.  The question then became how to write it.”—Michael Frank


From a conversation with Ileene Smith about the genesis of What Is Missing:

Frank: The novel is built around a triangle, and it’s true that each of the main characters is off-kilter when we meet them. Andrew, the youngest, has just broken up with his girlfriend and is beginning to perceive that something is amiss in his relationship with his father. His father, Henry, a leading New York fertility specialist, is finally ready to restart his life, several years after an agonizing divorce—

Smith: And then there’s your female protagonist Costanza, an accomplished translator and the recent widow of a difficult man, a notable American novelist who never wanted a child. She wakes up one day within striking distance of forty and realizes she wants to become pregnant but can’t. Her experience in the tumultuous world of in-vitro fertilization is written with such compassion. It’s rare for a man to take on a subject like this. Where did that understanding come from?

Frank: Do I have to answer?

Read the rest of the conversation on Work in Progress

Da un’intervista con Elena Nieddu /  Il Secolo XIX:

“E cosa vuol dire essere completi?  Stiamo sempre cambiando, non abbiamo un’identità fissa.  È proprio per questo che leggiamo romanzi e li scriviamo, per catturare momenti di crisi, di sapienza di sé stessi.”


From “A Phone call from Paul”:  “When you can master a line, meaning a line of language or dialogue or verse, you really can capture any experience, anything you imagine, anything you have lived. It can go back and forth in time, which is essential if you’re going to write a memoir, novel, or a story.” Listen to the full conversation with Paul Holdengräber on LitHub

Madeleine Brand discusses The Mighty Franks with Michael on Press Play.  Listen to the interview here

A conversation with San Francisco Writers’ Grotto members Bridget Quinn and Larry Rosen on the subject of capturing family life in memoir: listen to the podcast here

From “The Wild Constraints of Family,” a conversation in Work in Progress with FSG editor Ileene Smith: “I first read The Mighty Franks in a crowded car on the way back from Vermont. By the time we crossed the state line into New York, I knew I would tell my colleagues that it was the best thing I’d read about a family since The Corrections.”  Read the full conversation

From Martha Frankel’s conversation with Michael about his “strangely hermetic” family on Woodstock Booktalk: “It was a sort of spider-web-like net in which any time anybody reached out for an individual opinion, perception, or point of view, you would be drawn back in, because everything affected everybody else in the web.  This was something that as a child I took as the way the world worked, the way families worked.”  Listen to the full interview here

From a conversation in Slate with Maira Kalman about two important closets: “The day after my uncle died I knew I was going to write about my uncle’s closet. I knew I was going to use it as a way to tell his story separately from my aunt’s…” Read the full conversation

From an interview with 4th Estate, the British publishers of The Mighty Franks: “A story at once extremely strange and entirely familiar – about families, innocence, art and love. This hugely enjoyable, totally unforgettable memoir is a classic in the making.” Read the interview

“Il filo rosso del libro, l’oggetto della mia letteratura, è zia Hankie. Come lei cercava di dominare la mia vita e quella della mia famiglia, ha dominato anche il libro. Ogni volta che provavo a parlare di me, finivo per tornare a lei. Dirò una cosa strana, soprattutto dalla mia posizione: nonostante sia uno scrittore e abbia scritto un memoir, non mi piace parlare di me stesso. Avrei voluto non far parte di questa storia, ma non era possibile” / “The thread that runs through this book is my aunt.  In the same way that she tried to dominate my life and the life of my family, she dominated the book too.  Every time I tried to speak about myself, I ended up returning to her.  I’ll say something strange, coming from a writer who is the author of a memoir: I don’t like to talk about myself!  In fact I would have liked not to be part of this story, but it just wasn’t possible”—from an interview with Matteo Fontanone, L’Indice dei Libri del Mese Read the full interview here

“Penso che il mistero di una persona rimanga per sempre, anche se vivi tutta la vita a contatto con lei e la studi da quando sei piccolo. Ma studiare è stata la mia salvezza” / “I think that a person’s fundamental mysteriousness remains forever, even if you spend your whole life in contact with her and study her since you were a child.  But studying was my salvation”—from an interview with Mariella Delfanti, Corriere del Ticino Read the full interview here

Per scrivere un libro cosi’, devi oltrepassare l’idea del tradimento.  Ho deciso di scrivere della mia famiglia come se tutti quanti fossero gia’ morti, e di pensare dopo alle conseguenze.” / “To write a book like this you have to move beyond the idea of betrayal.  I decided to write about my family as if everyone were already dead, and to think about the consequences later”—from an interview with Salvatore Lo Iacono, Giornale di Sicilia/ LuciaLibri Read the full interview here

“Un racconto agrodolce nel quale lo scrittore americano…trateggia I MIGHTY FRANKS (questo è il titolo originale) in tutta la loro controversa originalità” / “A bittersweet story in which the American writer captures THE MIGHTY FRANKS in all their paradoxical  originality”—Davide Cerbone, Il Mattino Read the full interview here

“Uno scrittore Americano inammorata di Genova, di Marcel Proust, di Barack Obama, e della propria soffocante famiglia, nonostante tutto… [Michael Frank] ha raccontato non solo se stesso e la voglia di affrancarsi da una figura ingombrante, ma anche le guerre di posizione combattute all’interno di questa famiglia eccentrica, unica, e molto americana” / “An American writer in love with Genova, Marcel Proust, Barack Obama and—despite everything—his own suffocating family, [Michael Frank] has not only described himself and his wish to liberate himself from an unwieldy figure, but also the battles for power that were fought in this eccentric, unique, and very American family”—Roberto Scarcella, Il Secolo XIX.  Read the full conversation here

“Sin da piccolo ho avuto la sensazione di essere nato in un romanzo o in un film, ma purtroppo non ero io l’autore ne il regista in questione.  Era la zia: ci teneva sotto controllo raccontando di continuo le nostre storie o, meglio, la sua versione delle nostre vite” / “Ever since I was small I had the feeling that I was born in a novel or a movie, but unfortunately I was neither the author or the director of either one.  My aunt was: she kept us under her control by constantly narrating our stories or, more accurately, her version of our lives”—Matteo Bianchi, La Nuova Ferrara.  Read the full interview here

“Odio la parola ‘disfunzionale’.  Erano i Buddenbrook disfunzionali?  La famiglia Glass?  Marcel e suoi genitori e nonni?” / “I hate the word ‘dysfunctional’.  Were the Buddenbrooks dysfunctional?  The Glass family?  Marcel and his parents and grandparents? ” —Alessandro Martini, Corriere della Sera Read the full conversation here

I Formidabili Frank, una famiglia fuori dall’ordinario, legato a Hollywood da due generazioni…un sogno, salvo che zia Hank è una seducente manipolatrice e Michael è il suo ‘tesoruccio’, il nipote prediletto.” / “The Mighty Franks, a family out of the ordinary, a dream—except that Aunt Hank is a manipulative seductress and Michael is her ‘lovey,” the favored nephew”—Beatrice Fiorentino, Il Piccolo Trieste  Read the full conversation here

“Whoever maps, controls….I think it has a personal application, too. Even in that small, intimate, and often insidious country known as family, whoever describes the lay of the land defines it. He or she assumes the power. I essentially had to map—remap—my childhood in order to understand it.” From a conversation with visual artist Joyce Kozloff in Work in Progress.  Read the full conversation here

From Víctor Amela’s q-and-a with Michael in La Vanguardia: “Cierto, el arte consigue transformar las experiencias en otra cosa. El arte es la capacidad de transformar el sufrimiento en belleza, haciéndolo inteligible.” (“It’s true that art manages to transform experiences into something else.  Art is the ability to change suffering into beauty, to make it graspable.”)  Read the full interview here

From Elena Hevia’s interview with Michael in elPeriódico: “Hank y su marido vivían como si estuvieran en el interior de una película. ‘Hablaban como se hablan en la ficciones, sin defectos ni fisuras. Creaban su propia realidad y decoraban su casa como un plató de cine; incluso cuando ponían la mesa, era una puesta en escena, una ficción’. Fallecido su marido, la vida de Hank acabó pareciendo una versión puesta al día de ‘El crepúsculo de los dioses’, donde ficción y realidad se dan la mano en un entorno de lujosa decadencia y un cierto desequilibrio psicológico.” (“Hank and her husband lived as if they were inside a movie. ‘They spoke as people speak in fiction, without stumbles or missteps.  They created their own reality and decorated their home as if it were a movie set; even when they set the table, it was staged, a fantasy.’ After her husband died, Hank’s life ended up looking like an up-to-date version of ‘Sunset Boulevard’, where fiction and reality blend together in an environment of luxurious decay and a certain psychological imbalance.”)  Read the full interview here