The 4thcoming series is all about introducing you to our authors. If you’ve ever wondered what your favourite 4th Estate author is currently reading, listening to or what their writing ritual is, then we’ve got all those answers for you.
Name: Michael Frank
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. ‘My aunt called our two families the Mighty Franks. But, she said, you and I, Lovey, are a thing apart. The two of us have pulled our wagons up to a secret campsite. We know how lucky we are. We’re the most fortunate people in the world to have found each other, isn’t it so?’
Michael Frank’s upbringing was unusual to say the least. His aunt was his father’s sister and his uncle his mother’s brother. The two couples lived blocks apart in the hills of LA, with both grandmothers in an apartment together nearby
What you’re reading:
As always too many books at once. Maria Messina, a Sicilian writer. Kay Redfield Jamison’s new biography of Robert Lowell. Magda Szabó’s The Door—an exceptional novel. Ovid, aloud to my daughter every morning over breakfast. The Metamorphoses is a great way to prepare for the perils of sixth grade.
What you’re listening to:
NPR (National Public Radio) every evening while cooking. It’s how I take in the surrealism of living under the administration of the Orange Man while doing something moderately productive at the same time.
What you’re watching:
Spring reawaken the trees on our block! (Is that less embarrassing than admitting that I have to wait for my wife to turn on the television, as it’s too complicated for me?)
Magari—it’s one of those untranslatable Italian words that captures a whole attitude, a whole philosophy. You can say “if only”, but that doesn’t carry quite the same wry world-weariness. Very handy in modern life. My modern life.
Don Maclean’s “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)”—the music you hear when you’re young burrows in like no other.
Your hero – literary or otherwise:
Primo Levi, for the discipline with which he sought to understand.
The book you wish you’d written:
How many pages can I fill answering that question?
Parked at my desk from the moment I return from accompanying my daughter to school. Daily negotiation with the demon known as cybercommunication, which seduces you into thinking you are not existentially alone. You are existentially alone, so you might as well face it and start typing. Or, first, deleting much of what you’ve typed the day before.
Best advice ever received:
Take in criticism, helpful or otherwise, without responding in the moment.
If you could change one thing about the world:
I would eradicate religious intolerance.
Think of something beautiful:
My parents’ lemon tree in Los Angeles, particularly this year after the draught-cancelling recent rains.
The most memorable sentence you’ve ever read:
Because it’s one of the first whose craftsmanship I remember thinking about consciously (I was eight): “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born…”—the first part of the second sentence of David Copperfield.
If you weren’t writing:
I would be working—more than the limited amount I’ve been able to—to teach writing to kids, especially high school seniors applying to college who don’t have the support at home or at school that they need to even out the shameful imbalance in opportunity that bedevils higher education in America.
Who would play the main characters in a film adaptation of The Mighty Franks?
Is this a parlor game or a dream? Meryl—who else embodies such mightiness? Though on the remote chance she is otherwise engaged, Nicole Kidman or Sarah Paulson. The mother: Natalie Portman. The uncle: Jared Harris. The father: Liev Schreiber. The nephew/son… I would pluck three unknowns off the street for the three ages of man (or boy).
Best place to write?
At home, with the phone off, the internet disconnected, the soup simmering, the wife at work, the child at school, the dog slumbering, no one wanting or needing anything. Magari!
Words by Michael Frank
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