Have you seen the Martin Scorsese film “Shutter Island?” The psychological thriller is done in such a way that you think you’re watching one kind of movie and then toward the end you realize you were watching the movie from the wrong kind of perspective. Wait, what? Exactly. It’s confusing and it’s definitely one of those movies you have to watch more than once to fully comprehend it.
“The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell is written in much the same way as that Scorsese film. The first-person story is about a young woman working as a typist at the New York Police Department precinct in the 1920s. The narrator, Rose, shares her version of the story and strings the reader right along. The reader catches glimpses of something going down and before too long the story turns chilly. I had to stop at a certain point and re-read what I just read to make sure I was following the right story. The reader (or maybe it’s just me?) starts to question everything they’d read in the previous 300 pages wondering if they could have seen the shift sooner.
This novel is Rindell’s debut. The doctoral student in American modernist literature at Rice University gives a shout out to F. Scott Fitzgerald (one of my own literary heroes) in the book’s acknowledgments:
“humbly aspired…to pay deliberate homage to the first true love of my teenage years: Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby.'”
“The Other Typist” (released May 7, 2013) has been advertised to fans of “The Great Gatsby” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
Due to the flux of 1920s-era literature I’ve read the last few months and after watching the latest Gatsby film, I have decided to bob my hair. Now it’s in writing and I’ll be held accountable. July 3 is the date!
Q and A with Suzanne Rindell
Q: Can you share more about the true love of your teenage years in “The Great Gatsby?” How did Fitzgerald inspire you as a writer?
A: I read it in the summer during junior high. My mother had me (quite willingly) working through one of those Modern Library lists of the top 100 classics. I think it was Fitzgerald’s sentences that got me. He unabashedly waxes poetic, especially if you compare him to his contemporaries (like Hemingway). He shouldn’t have been able to pull off such sentimental lines, and yet he did. I also felt a deep sense of nostalgia coming through in his writing, and I really loved him for that.
Q: Have you seen the latest adaptation of “The Great Gatsby?” What did you think?
A: It’s a spectacle and a beautiful-looking film, that much is sure true. In a lot of ways though, I am its worst audience, because I am such a purist about the book. I knew I wouldn’t be cool with even the most minor liberties taken, so I didn’t go see it with the idea that I would love it, and that probably helped.
Q: Why did you decide the era of the 1920s as the setting of your first novel?
A: My academic work focused on the 1920s, so it was a natural fit. During grad school I was constantly reading and writing about 1920s culture and literature. This was before the era’s more recent trendiness. I had no idea how “on trend” that decade would become while writing my novel, but in a lot of ways, that might’ve been a good thing!
Q: Did this novel require research in NYC?
A: I definitely couldn’t have written it prior to living in New York. Fictional stories are always set in a somewhat imagined landscape, but that landscape needs to be informed by very real inspiration. I walked around the city and got as much historical information from libraries and museums I could find.
Q: What can you share about your second novel?
A: It’s also set in New York, but this time Greenwich Village in the 1950s. It centers on three characters caught up in the crossover between the publishing industry of the 1950s and the beatnik scene. I won’t say much more than that, but I hope folks will like it.