BY LISA MARIE BASILE
OTHER WOMEN is a novel by Nicola Maye Goldberg.
About the book: After dropping out of college, a young woman wanders through New York both invisible and vulnerable, studying the city’s strong magic and longing for a man she knows will never love her back. She thinks she finds salvation when Charlotte Herzfeld, the young wife of a successful businessman, hires her as a live-in nanny to accompany the family on their trip to Berlin. As the After dropping out of college, a young woman wanders through New York both invisible and vulnerable, studying the city’s strong magic and longing for a man she knows will never love her back. She thinks she finds salvation when Charlotte Herzfeld, the young wife of a successful businessman, hires her as a live-in nanny to accompany the family on their trip to Berlin. As the Herzfelds begin to crack under the weight of their secrets, she finds herself in a more precarious position than ever before. Both thoughtful and restrained, Goldberg’s prose examines the painful obsession that so often accompanies the confusing lust of youth. Herzfelds begin to crack under the weight of their secrets, she finds herself in a more precarious position than ever before. Both thoughtful and restrained, Goldberg’s prose examines the painful obsession that so often accompanies the confusing lust of youth.
In your book, OTHER WOMEN, love how sometimes your writing feels like a diary, a memory, and a peek behind the curtains at once. I love passages like this, where you detail so beautifully, so gently, and so specifically on a situation.
"Obviously we don’t get to choose who we love, I thought. I was lying in an unmade bed that smelled of gin and soap and your girlfriend’s perfume. All things considered, you can do much worse than a wall. 25 We stayed up until dawn. I watched the shadows of your eyelashes move rapidly across your cheeks. We got under the covers and you pulled me close to you, muttering something about goose-bumps. I tried to sleep beside you, but your heart beat so fast it bothered me. You couldn’t believe how small I was, how cold."
What inspired this book, and your style of writing? What inspired this narrator?
The starting point for the book was the same, I imagine, as for a lot of books - I was really in love with someone who didn't give a shit about me. The bulk of the book is made up of emails I wrote and never sent to that person. A lot of the book was also written in the margins of the notebooks when I should have been taking notes in class, or in the notes app on my phone.
Do you read while you write, or do you avoid writing so as not to become a sponge? I myself feel like I can't read while writing, or else something happens and bits of something kind of get stuck in my mind and I feel like what comes out isn't clearly me. That's probably why I write so slowly. Tell me about how muse and inspiration intersect with your writing process.
I'm almost always writing - though not necessarily well - so it would be impossible to not read while I'm writing. I read a lot of poetry while I was writing Other Women. I was especially obsessed with Couer de Lion by Ariana Reines. Fiction is my favorite thing to read, but I try to balance it out with nonfiction and poetry as much as I can, because I'm afraid of other writer's voices overpowering my own. I often write while watching television, which is not very disciplined of me, but seems to work.
Your book is very firmly rooted in the experience of being a young woman. Tell me more about the appeal of writing about that experience, that condition, that perspective. Why do you think these tales, and that voice, is so fucking intoxicating?
I mean, it's what I know. In the project I'm working on now, I throw my voice a lot more, writing through the perspective of people who are very different from myself. But for my first book, it seemed safer, I guess, to stay close to my own experience and perspective. I don't know what makes it appeal to other people. Personally I've kind of lost my appetite for coming of age novels right now! Personally I'm really into books about older women who have been through a lot and have unusual views on the world.
If your book was a song or a color, which song, and which color, would it be? Why?
If it were a song it would definitely be "I don't smoke" by Mitski which I listened to a ton while writing. That song is very much in the emotional register I tried to maintain in the book. And a color - maybe a pale pink with blue undertones. Or maybe lilac? Something muted, probably.
Who should read your book? Who is Other Women for?
I wrote it primarily for myself, I think. I tried to write a book I wanted to read. I have no idea who should read it. I will say that I am a little surprised whenever men tell me they enjoyed the book.
There's a little conversation in the book about the narrator saying to her lover that she liked soft sweaters; he responds by saying he prefers material sturdy, strong. Something that will last unto death. You write, "It was such a small, odd piece of information you’d given me, but there was a real possibility that it was something only I knew. Even though I knew you most likely forgot that conversation by the time you left my apartment, to me it was a real gift."
These tiny snapshots, fragments—they stay with us, and you manage to capture them so tenderly and honestly throughout your whole book. I love that. Do you think that love is a perpetual struggle in being seen, remembered, being seen as special? Is this more a book of sorrow, or is it more a book of acceptance and growth?
Thank you for the compliment! I think I know even less about love now than I did when I started the book. There's pretty much nothing about it I can say with any certainty. As to that particular conversation: I thought if I captured certain moments, certain memories, I would be able to drain them of their power, that they would no longer have such a hold on me. It didn't work.
Other Women was originally my undergraduate thesis. After I finished writing it I sent it to some agents who basically said it was too short to be published and that I should make it longer, which I really didn't want to do. Witch Craft published one of my short stories around the same time, so I asked Elle if she knew of any small presses that might be interested in my manuscript. I actually don't remember if it was Elle or I who suggested that they publish it. I'm really glad it worked out the way it did. Elle and Catch have been such a joy to work with. I got to have a lot of creative control, which I appreciate.
Can you tell me what else you're working on right now?
I'm working on a book about murder, inspired by a ghost story I heard while I was in college. I'm sort of nervous to say too much about it, like that might jinx it or something. Spending so much time thinking about ghosts has apparently made me superstitious.
Nicola Maye Goldberg is the author of Other Women (Sad Spell Press, 2016) and The Doll Factory (Dancing Girl Press, 2017). She is a graduate of the fiction program at Columbia University. She lives in New York City.