Liz Prato

Liz Prato/Photo by Judith Fay Pulman

Liz Prato/Photo by Judith Fay Pulman

By JUDITH FAY PULMAN

Liz Prato—essayist, short story writer, and novelist—agreed to meet with me in her office. I had taken a fiction writing class with her and was deeply intrigued by her soft nature that somehow naturally coexisted with an uncommon shrewdness. This woman can dissect stories with the best of them and diagnose ailing essays to make them brand new.

She’s really interesting, too: Liz became the last surviving member of her nuclear family less than two years ago (she’s 45 now), her non-fiction and fiction works are strange, deep, and darkly funny, and in person, she doesn’t hesitate to talk about her beliefs, even though many of them are paradoxical at their root. How could I not want to sit down and ask her questions?

The quotes below have been edited from a longer interview.

“Holden Caulfield is one of my favorite characters and I was definitely drawn to that lost quality about him—that searching quality—but was also drawn to the component of his character that played at the edge of mental illness and depression. Recently there was a Facebook thread about people rereading books from high school and someone who read Catcher in the Rye was shocked to find in the first few pages the fact that Holden’s brother had died. That’s why he’s in a mental hospital—it’s not because he’s a self absorbed messed-up kid, it’s because he had this major loss and doesn’t know how to deal. He doesn’t have the family support and this wasn’t a time in society when people knew how to talk about death or depression openly. That’s why he’s wandering. Not just because.”

Continues…