Lecturer of the Month: Sarah Frisch

Lecturer of the Month April 2015: Sarah Frisch

EDITsarah frisch new photo

About Sarah:

Your favorite books

James Baldwin writes with incredible insight and emotional power, and Another Country is one of my favorite novels. It’s complex and ferocious and feels as if it could have been written today. I also love Graham Greene for his intensely tortured characters, his political landscapes, and the way he’s always dealing with big moral questions. At various times in my life, the following books were my favorites: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Louise Erdrich’s The Beet Queen (two books that first made me want to be a writer); Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (for its scope, intellectual heft, and female protagonist), Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (for its brutal politics and intense, unpredictable energy), Jim Harrison’s Dalva (for its fierce protagonist and prose), Keri Hulme’s The Bone People (hard to get through, but hard to shake), and Earl Lovelace’s Dragon Can’t Dance (for its big heart and gorgeous prose). I also love The Brother’s Karamazov and The Idiot, as well as Middlemarch and Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I think people often forget how funny Jane Austen can be, and Persuasion is hilarious while also being a moving portrait of female resilience. I just read John La Carre’s, The Spy Who Came in the From the Cold, which is slippery and grim and impossible to put down. I find John Cheever’s short stories highly addictive, and I finally started reading Alice Munro’s brilliant and subversive collections—an entirely different experience than reading her stories individually. Open Secrets prompted a big breakthrough in my writing and also may have altered my brain chemistry. For a few months I was contemplating getting finger tattoos to look at while I was typing: “WWAMD” (What Would Alice Munro Do?)


Where you’re from. What you’re working on.

I’m from the neighborhood of Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago. I’m three-quarters of the way through a novel that’s set in Chicago in the late 1980s. It’s not autobiographical, although it has some elements that overlap with my childhood. I’ve never written about Chicago before, and I was initially a bit too distracted by the city’s fascinating and corrupt political history, as well as by the history of Hyde Park, which is a complicated and singular place. I also found that I had to wade through some painful nostalgia before I was able to let the characters take over. Fortunately the characters now have lives of their own, and I’m more comfortable writing about the place that produced them.


Favorite story you’ve published.

I’m still pretty attached to “Housebreaking,”  (published in The Paris Review last year), in part because it represented such a breakthrough in my research and revision skills. I’m also excited about my story, “River Blindness,” which is out in the new issue of the VQR.


How you get feedback on your work.

One of the things I love about Stanford’s Creative Writing program is how the lecturers are also writers who started out together as Stegner Fellows. Many of us still read and critique each other’s work and are in ongoing discussion about literature and the world. There’s a real sense of artistic camaraderie in the program, and I think it shapes the experience our students have in the classroom.


Contact Info:

Email: sfrisch@stanford.edu