“Books Without Covers”

Dorothy Allison hasn’t published a work of fiction since her 1998 novel, Cavedweller, and she’s apparently tired of answering questions about when her next book, “She Who,” will actually appear. “I talk about it as little as possible,” she told Knoxville’s Metro Pulse earlier this month. But the interview also stresses that she’s just as concerned with rural poverty and abuse as she was in books like Bastard Out of Carolina. But taking jobs at places like Stanford, where she’s taught students from much comfier backgrounds than her, has adjusted her pool of characters: She tells the paper that the forthcoming novel is about what happens when a wealthy woman is thrown off a parking deck.

Allison has been struggling to get the novel finished since at least the middle part of this decade, but she sounds a bit more confident about its completion in a new interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times. The theme of the article is her stubborn persistence in getting her stories told, and she says she’s sustained by the notion that classic literature is defined by its “impulse toward justice”. It’s an idea I hadn’t considered, but which makes sense if you grow up, as she did, poor and finding Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin books cheap, with their covers ripped off. That’s the audience that Allison says she keeps in mind as she writes:

My job is to write as strongly and powerfully as I can, and, wherever possible, to read out loud in a southern accent, and hope for the best. There will come dark periods when people will not be reading the classics, but then we’ll stay in print, and there’ll be kids who find my books without covers, and it will pass along. I believe in the persistence of literature. It’s one reason I like books, I like paper. I like whatever cannot be destroyed by a nuclear pulse moving through the atmosphere. I like the continuity of story.