Vanity Fair reporter crafts compelling, small-town story
By Samantha Samel
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Every family has its secrets; every town has its scandals. In her debut novel “Love All” (Henry Holt and Company), Brooklyn writer Callie Wright explores the history of her own hometown, Cooperstown, New York, as a springboard for her poignant coming-of-age story.
In the 1960s, Cooperstown residents were shaken by “The Sex Cure” – a publication that divulged the scandals of the community and its inhabitants. In “Love All”, Wright exposes the potency of “The Sex Cure”, as it resurfaces in the ‘90s to unravel one family’s fibers. Bob Cole is grieving the loss of his wife when his grown daughter, Anne Obermeyer, invites him to live with her own family in Cooperstown. Anne and her father are in the process of working through their grief when Anne discovers an old copy of the contentious book whose enclosed secrets resurface to thwart their progress.
Meanwhile, Anne’s new family has secrets of its own. Her husband, Hugh, has adopted an increasingly suspicious schedule and, as principal of the town’s preschool, he is nervous that a recent accident at the school threatens to shatter its reputation. The couple’s children have their own dramas; 15-year-old Julia is trapped in a love triangle with two close friends, while her older brother, Teddy, witnesses something that might change his family for good.
As three generations grapple with scandals from the past, Wright deftly illustrates each angle of a family’s struggle to exist as a loving unit.
In anticipation of Wright’s upcoming Brooklyn appearance, Brooklyn Eagle spoke to the author about her novel. She reveals which character was the most difficult to develop and shares with us where in Brooklyn she likes to go when working on a project.
It’s interesting that this fictional story is based on an event that occurred in your own hometown. Did you ever consider fictionalizing the non-fictional elements of the book (by changing the name of the book or town)?
At various times during early drafts of “Love All,” I did consider fictionalizing the setting of Cooperstown, New York. It’s challenging to be historically accurate, and there is the inherent risk of townspeople not remembering Cooperstown as I depicted it. But the fact of The Sex Cure remained, and I wanted to try to set the record straight: in 1962, Elaine Dorian used a thinly veiled version of Cooperstown and barely-concealed real-life characters to write a farce about life there. I wanted to write a new novel using the real-life setting of Cooperstown but fictional characters to show what life in my hometown was truly like.
You depict each family member so vividly – were some of the characters more challenging to develop than others?
Unexpectedly, Julia was the most difficult character to develop. Because I, too, was fifteen years old in 1994, I thought I already knew Julia. But she is not a younger version of me and her motivations and fears and hopes and needs are not mine. Before I could place Julia on the page, I had to forget everything I thought I knew about her, and then I found her—not me at all, but a girl I’m certain I would’ve liked.
You’re an established reporter, though you have a background in fiction writing as well. How did writing this novel compare to your previous projects?
Most of my reporting at Vanity Fair magazine is done in the service of helping make the stories factually correct. By day, I’m a fact-checker. At night, I’m a fact-maker.
Where in Brooklyn do you live? When did you move there?
I’ve lived in Brooklyn since 2004, first in Boerum Hill, then in Park Slope. In March, my husband and I moved to South Slope.
Outside of your own home, do you have any favorite locations in Brooklyn for writing?
I like to edit my work-in-progress on a bench in Prospect Park.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been working on short personal essays, which is new for me. It took me seven years to write this novel, and although I’ve started taking notes for a new novel, it’s fun to have a short-term creative outlet.
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The July 10 event will begin at 7 p.m. powerHouse Arena is located at 37 Main St. in DUMBO.
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Callie Wright is a reporter and researcher at Vanity Fair. She graduated from Yale and earned her MFA at the University of Virginia, where she was a Poe/Faulkner Fellow in Creative Writing and won a Raven Society Fellowship. She is the recipient of a Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and her short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and The Southern Review. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.