Interview: Polly Shulman
Current Mood: tired
Current Song: Rachmaninoff as heard in Brief Encounter by Noel Coward
Determination goes hand in hand with enthusiasm.
After Polly Shulman finished her first novel, she sent it to three different agents. All three turned it down.
She sent it to three more agents. All three were interested.
Now she has an agent, a published novel, and bragging rights. Enthusiasm is gracing the bookshelves and snagging praise from the bigwigs in publishing and reviews. Time Magazine's Lev Grossman said, "Enthusiasm has the makings of an instant classic." Booklist gave it a starred review. Kirkus called it "[s]everal cuts above the usual fare."
Shulman grows a little shy when discussing the book reviews, but it must be nice to come full circle. She wrote a weekly book review for Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, for three years. She has written hundreds of reviews and articles for various publications, including The New York Times, The Village Voice, Salon.com, Discover, Scientific American, Psychology Today, and Slate.
The release of Enthusiasm coincided nicely with the release of last year's box office hit Pride and Prejudice. Of course, that was simply the latest in a long line of films based on the classic novel by Jane Austen. Shulman enjoys the BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth, but also has a soft spot for the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier/Aldous Huxley version.
When asked if she is a Julie or an Ashleigh, Shulman says the jury is out. "I think I'm a Julie, but several of my friends say I'm an Ashleigh. However, most of them are Ashleighs themselves, so how would they know?"
Shulman says she is not as "phase-y" as Ashleigh. She watched her brother go through phases when they were children, but none of Ashleigh's passions necessarily mimic Shulman's -- except for the candymaking, that is. ("I have a huge sweet tooth!")
So what are a few of her favorite things? "I love books! And word play and ingenuity of all sorts. I also enjoy math, miniature orchids, Victorian jewelry, baking, movies, and walking around beautiful cities. And birds. And chocolate. And did I mention books?"
Those unfamiliar with Pride and Prejudice need not shy away from Enthusiasm. It incorporates many other books - Sense and Sensibility by Austen, A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare, Dancing by Dodworth - but wholly original characters who will sweep readers off their feet.
POLLY'S TOP TEN BOOKS:
"Wow, just ten?" Polly says before she even starts her list. "If I say all of Jane Austen's novels plus her juvenilia, does that take up seven slots? Here we go, in no particular order . . . "
Shakespeare's comedies (If you want just one, make it Twelfth Night. Or As You Like It. Or Much Ado About Nothing.)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Don Juan by Byron
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
The Phantom Tollboth by Norton Juster
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones
The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald and its sequel The Princess and Curdie
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
The poems of Emily Dickinson
A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
Then she adds: "Ask me again tomorrow and I'll give you a whole different list."
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