Move Over Holden Caulfield
Dana Czapnik has always been drawn to wanderers and wonderers, the kind of fictional characters who are always contemplating who they are and the world around them.
But aside from the work of Virginia Woolf, Czapnik said she hasn’t come across many female characters who are given that kind of opportunity.
“That was one of the things that I was thinking of when I was working on this,” Czapnik said of her new novel, The Falconer. “That I wanted to write a female character who has the space to just be and wonder.”
The Falconer was released late last month and has already received a lot of high praise, including one review that favorably compared it to The Catcher in the Rye. (“I read that review when I was on the subway,” Czapnik tells Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen. “People must have thought I was nuts because I was laughing and crying into my phone.”)
Czapnik talks with us about her book, character comparisons with Holden Caulfield, the nuances of feminism, and growing up a woman in a man’s world. Below are highlights.
On wrestling with the nuances of feminism
Dana Czapnik: It’s sort of being marketed as a feminist coming-of-age book, which it is, but it’s also actually kind of wrestling with feminism and wrestling with what kind of a woman you are, what kind of a person you are, all of these warring factions that we have within us about how do we reconcile our political beliefs and what we think we should be doing to advance our place in the world, and some of the more biological uncontrollable wants and needs that we have too.
So that’s kind of the conversation that’s going on in this book. And I hope that there’s no resolution. I’m not interested particularly in a resolution. … Who the hell knows? There’s no answer. We’re sort of carving the path for ourselves.
On setting her novel in the 1990s
Czapnik: The early ‘90s in particular was the last moment before the internet, which I think is the history cleaving moment of our lifetimes. In some ways, it’s so much more innocent because of that. And yet, it wasn’t actually an innocent time at all. There was an AIDS crisis, so many of the things that we’re experiencing now existed back then, too. The only difference is that it was relatively peaceful.
Czapnik: I think we’re always incredibly nostalgic for the time of our youth, but oftentimes, what we’re nostalgic for is our youth and not the time we live in. So the ‘90s that I experienced was completely different from the ‘90s that a 60-year-old might have experienced, just as a 17-year-old experiencing 2019 is going to be an incredibly different experience, or an incredibly different time, than what it is to me.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced by Justin Bull.