Author and Filmmaker Rebecca Miller Discusses "Jacob's Folly," Her Latest Novel
On this edition of ST, we speak with Rebecca Miller, the acclaimed screenwriter, author, and filmmaker, who'll appear tonight (Thursday the 17th) at 7pm at a free-to-the-public Book Smart Tulsa event at the Circle Cinema. At this gathering, she'll be reading from and signing copies of her latest novel, "Jacob's Folly," which is just out in paperback; she'll also deliver an introduction before a screening of her 2009 film, "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" (which she adapted from her novel of the same title). Miller is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and the wife of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, and she's also the director/screenwriter of such well-regarded motion pictures as "Angela" (1995), "Personal Velocity: Three Portraits" (2002), and "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" (2005). She talks about "Jacob's Folly" on our show today --- when the ideas behind this novel first came to her, why she spent about five years researching and writing it, and how the characters in this work changed or developed over the course of its creation. As was noted of "Jacob's Folly" in a starred review in Booklist: "Miller embeds readers in the outsized consciousness of a fly, the modern reincarnation of Jacob, a Jewish peddler taken from eighteenth-century Paris and stripped of his identity. Via an enigmatic capacity to enter minds, the fly encourages young, Orthodox Masha's forbidden stage aspirations while simultaneously inciting a botched bid to 'rescue' her. Because of consistent narration, Miller's intricate plots are never confusing. Rather, they are foils across time and space, offering measurements of survival, belonging, inheritance, the cost of transformation --- whether coerced or voluntary --- and outcome's overpowering of intention. Jacob acts undetected by his targets, but a far more inscrutable figure reveals his role in the satisfying conclusion. The novel breathes sensuality, creating sounds of languages mixing in dusty streets, the feeling of being bareheaded, without yarmulke, for the first time, and even an orange's distinctive smell. Readers will chuckle contentedly and without malice at a violent, life-affirming death. A deeply pleasurable, darkly comic, and original reinterpretation of Jewish history's 'indestructible storyline,' alighting thoughtfully on forces both individual and collective, internal and external, from genocide to assimilation."