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NYS Writers Institute, April 2, 1997

Amy Bloom, fiction writer and psychotherapist, is the author of the novel Love Invents Us (1996) and the short story collection Come to Me(1993), which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Anne Whitehouse in the New York Times Book Review described Bloom's voice in Come to Me as "sure and brisk, her language often beautiful; the result is humorous as well as heart-rending fiction.. .Ms. Bloom is entertaining, wise and tolerant. Her work has the power both to disturb and to console."

Her work has appeared frequently in The New Yorker magazine Antaeus, Story, and Best American Short Stories. She is a contributing editor at New Woman and has published nonfiction work in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. His stories have been anthologized in the 1991 and 1992 Best American Short Stories collection, and the 1994 O. Henry Prize Story Collection. "[Bloom] can handle unspeakable pain with the quiet authority of a Chekhov, but has an even rarer gift: she describes happiness so that we can share in it." - Ursula LeGuin

The twists of love

Come to MeAmy Bloom created a stir when her first book, Come to Me, a short-story collection, was nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1993. Now, the Connecticut based writer has written her first novel, Love Invents Us (Random House), about the passions of one woman from childhood to middle age and the two men in her life. We asked the author to describe what inspired her novel.

"I thought I wrote this novel because that is what people (publishing people) encourage one to do after a collection of short stories. It turns out that Love Invents Us is the story I'd been trying to understand since I first sat in my handsome grandfather's kitchen while his plain and brooding wife (the third or fourth depending on whether or not you counted the lady in California) overcooked my breakfast.

Before I learned about the gorgeous, dangerous puzzle of sex--and long before I learned that marriage made sex look easy--I knew that twists of love and surprise endings and unexpected beginnings were the best, the most revealing, the most demanding stories. Even mere liking seemed more complicated than people admitted.

I was my grandfather’s darling, while he was his wife's, and the people in my family unfolded like so many Chinese boxes, with whole lives concealed and chains of love and language only glimpsed (Aunt Molly, who was good to my father; Uncle Herman, with the disappointing son; the man my mother didn't marry; the middle child who was never born).

In the rest of his life, my grandfather was not known for his open-handed, thoughtful ways. In the rest of mine, I was famous for my inattention and my resistance to frills and ruffles. In the life we made together, I concentrated furiously on checkers (the notion of letting children win, for the sake of their self-esteem, was not understood in Rego Park), and we window-shopped religiously and made pleasing and successful purchases as my grandfather persuaded me that lilac-striped organza had a place in my life, and so did the headband, the eyelet-trimmed socks, and the small, now essential lilac handbag. His wife was not invited to stroll with us down Saunders Avenue, and she did not think the clothes suited me. Mismatched and misunderstood everywhere else, in our world we were king and princess, scintillating conversationalists. (What did I not understand about the Bund? What did he not understand about Miss McKee?) We were not only made for each other, we were made by each other.

There are no characters who are not pieces of the writer. Love Invents Us is one of those pieces of me and mine laid down and tossed up, in as many different designs as I could see and tell in these last few years. In black and white, in living and imagined color, they are dancing at the tips of my fingers, in love and blind despair and friendship, and they pull me into pasts that are not my own and take me into futures that I had not foreseen. I think love does invent us. It did me." -- At Random

"The highest compliment I can pay a writer is to say that her work is Chekhovian - which is to say that its fine, fierce intelligence is matched by its compassion. LOVE INVENTS US has that kind of amplitude of spirit. This is a rare book, stunningly observed, lovingly detailed, and heartbreaking, truly, in the mercy it showers on these lives."-- Rosellen Brown, author of BEFORE AND AFTER

"LOVE INVENTS US contains the most extraordinary lyrical descriptions of the loved body. Amy Bloom makes you feel what it is like to be seventeen and know you have to touch that body or die. In LOVE INVENTS US, she writes about love and desire with more visceral power than anyone I know. Perhaps best of all, she has the grace to always throw in a little bit of redemption. This novel is marvelous."-- Dorothy Allison, author of BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA

"Bloom, author of Come to Me, curves and spins and carves around her subject, expanding into exquisite scenes... [a] terrific first novel."--ELLE

If there is one trait all humans share, it is the capacity to love. The way love shapes us and determines our lives, is always unique. Elizabeth Taube lives for love, looks for herself in it, defines herself by it, falls into it often. Sometimes, it is love in an unacceptable form--wrong time, wrong person--but it is always real and significant, and it is the magic ingredient she used to invent herself--to transform herself from a hollow-souled child and teenage outcast into an independent woman.

Love Invents UsIn LOVE INVENTS US (Random House), National Book Award finalist Amy Bloom's achingly beautiful first novel, we follow the passions that shape Elizabeth from childhood to middle age. With a stunning and original perspective, and a voice as real as life and full of surprises, Bloom pushes back the boundaries of how we understand human beings. Although we laugh with her characters and are consoled by their bliss, Bloom's work disturbs us as well. Her vision goes to the very core of the passions felt in every heart--passions shameful, glorious, perverse.

In elementary school, Elizabeth begins her journey in the back room of Mr. Klein's store. She tries on furs and hats for him--ash blond minks, capes of silver fox, kelly green fedoras. She gets her first taste of the dizzying power of infatuation and the insidious impact of love on a battered self-esteem. "The pleasure on Mr. Klein's face made me forget everything I heard in the low tones of my parents' conversation and everything I saw in my own mirror. I chose to believe Mr. Klein."

Elizabeth soon meets the next deep attachment in her life, Mrs. Hill, an elderly black lady for whom she tidies up and with whom she keeps company, under the supervision of the church. Then Elizabeth enters high school and baby-sits for the children of Max Stone, her English teacher and soon-to-be lover. Both of these relationships, if unusual, nevertheless endure in Elizabeth's heart and make a profound impression on the course of her life. As she grows up, love works its intoxicating, manipulative magic. Max's affections soon border on obsession: "I have no intention of harming her," says Max to Mrs. Hill. "You must see that whatever it looks like, it is love. I give you my word. I would cut off my hand first." In no time there is a new man in Elizabeth's heart.

Huddle Lester is tall, muscular, a player on the high school basketball team. When Elizabeth meets him, she meets the love of her life. "We used every private place a small, affluent town has, every well-kept wood, every wintering swimming hole, every empty boathouse, and even seven-foot-wide granite boulders that some people in Saddle Rock Estates put in to make their quarter-acre backyards look more interesting." Love and searing desire "slammed us into each other, giddy and harmlessly wild as bumper cars." When Huddle's father learns of the relationship, he sends his son off to live with relatives in Alabama. "You have to know how much I love you. I LOVE YOU," Huddie writes in his desperate letters (all intercepted) from “Mars, Alabama."

Poignant, heartbreaking, and exhilarating, Elizabeth's life becomes a reflection of our own. In the skilled hands of Amy Bloom, LOVE INVENTS US is a vivid, funny, real account of how life can sometimes blossom and sometimes unravel--and how love is deeply connected to it all. In the words of Alice Hoffman, "Amy Bloom is a writer of amazing skill, intelligence, and compassion... She leaves the reader begging for more."

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.