Whenever I’m asked to recommend a modern Iranian novel, I have to keep three things in mind. First, unlike Persian classical literature—the works of such masters as Rumi, Khayyam, and Hafez—the modern novels are not widely known or usually excerpted in anthologies of world literature.
“When I living in Japan, I learned about the phenomenon of kireru, which means ‘to snap.’ The concept of snapping and committing violence under pressure isn’t foreign to us, but the people who were snapping–namely, young children, including girls–surprised me. I was teaching junior high at this time, and I wondered whether any of my students, cheery or well-behaved on the surface, were capable of this. So the book was born from a question: what would have to happen in a child’s life for her to do this? And as I started to answer that question, Chizuru (Rio) was born.”
“Deciding which medium I use to explore an idea comes down to immediacy. If there’s something urgent that I want to think through — the pool essay, for example — I like addressing it through nonfiction. The Internet makes it easy to join a ongoing conversation. Fiction, at least for me, moves much more slowly. The ideas I take on in fiction are usually ideas that I’ve been thinking about for years.”
In 1901, a woman threw herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was the first to survive this trip, which she had executed specifically for fame and fortune, though she earned more of the former than the latter. Despite world-wide headlines and a number of speaking engagements, she remained poor, hawking photo-ops and signatures to tourists. She also wrote a novel about the experience.
“From a plot perspective, each of my characters has the opportunity to help another character, and they all take that opportunity. Now, in order to facilitate those decisions, I had to introduce them to peril. I was fine sticking them in dire situations, knowing that they’d make it through unscathed. Nobody comes off worse than he or she begins.”