In her talk at the Grubbs Gallery on September 23, author Joan Wickersham offered to break down the minutiae of two of her books, about suicide and love, respectively.
“If you’re a writer, that’s what you want to know: How did a book get written?” she said, adding that, “both were messy subjects and very structured books.”
The first of the two, The Suicide Index, took Ms. Wickersham 11 years to write in part, she said, because the initial finished version was a novel, a “very polite, dead book.” So when she began to edit the material, Ms. Wickersham found herself throwing out every chapter.
“I was trying to treat suicide as a conventional story,” she said, shaking her head.
What emerged instead—once she had disposed of the idea that she could take her father’s suicide and turn it into a novel—was a series of fragments that the author then arranged alphabetically, imposing a form of order on a chaotic experience.