Susanna Moore was a symphony in colour co-ordination at 11 a.m on a Saturday and a wholly fascinating subject, ably conversed with by Caroline Baum.
Commendably Baum dispensed with an introduction but not the detail that when Moore left Hawaii for New York she took with her 20 pairs of alligator shoes. Asked about sharing a home state with President Obama, Moore let drop that they went to the same school.
This combination of the seemingly trivial with the serious set the tone for the rest of the session, which ranged from whether or not Moore believed Warren Beatty has slept with 12,000 women (she worked for Beatty and thinks the figure is a little high), to her opinion of the Roman Polanski case (he’s her daughter’s godfather, she doesn’t want to see him in jail but she thinks he should return to face the consequences of his actions).
Moore’s latest book, The Big Girls is ostensibly about women in prison but really it is a study of families in their endless manifestations. Moore read a lot for two years before she began writing, at the beginning she thought all the women on death row for killing their children would be mad and at the end she hadn’t changed her mind, although she found she liked some and loathed others.
Moore has taught writing in a jail but was kicked out for bringing in magazines and books for the prisoners, although the real reason was probably that she became more trouble than she was worth to the guards. Teaching two days a week at Princeton is something of a contrast, although the prisoners can be more inventive and creative, less inhibited, simply because there are no expectations.
In the Cut is probably her best known work, possible due to the film version with Meg Ryan. Questioned about whether the heroine was punished for refusing to be afraid, Moore answered no, they get you either way, you might as well go out fighting.
Some of the audience were disappointed that One Last Look, her novel set in colonial India, was not discussed, and it does sound fascinating. Reading the journals of Emily and Fanny Eden, who joined their brother Lord Auckland on his passage to India, Moore noticed the adoration Emily felt for her less-than-impressive brother and thought “Hmmm”.
Moore was one of the people I was really looking forward to seeing at this festival and she did not disappoint, I’m going to hunt out her first three novels (sometimes known as the Hawaiian trilogy) and catch up with One Last Look.