Claire Messud is the author of six novels, including The Emperor’s Children, a New York Times bestseller that was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. Her sixth novel, The Woman Upstairs, was released by Knopf in April 2013 to much critical acclaim and a long listing for the Canadian Scotiabank Giller Prize. As December temperatures plummeted Melody Nixon caught up with Claire Messud over the phone about fiction, philosophy, and that comment about the “likeability” of literary characters.
The Deal with Discomfort: Claire Messud on “Likeability,” the Subjective Self, and Choosing an Artist’s Life
Almost every child takes an object of particular affection—a stuffed animal or a blanket that they sleep with and drag around behind them in a state of increasing filth and dissolution, the way Christopher Robin drags Pooh. I’ve always wondered about the fates of other people’s beloved creatures: surely nobody is heartless enough to throw them away? When something—someone!—has been so loved, how can you ever stop loving them entirely? I’ve always had a tendency to anthropomorphize things—houses, cars, teddy bears—and retain a sentimental compassion for others who do so.