Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where her second novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette take place. It was published by Little, Brown & Co. in August, 2012.
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Maria Semple talks with Greg Olear about her latest novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, an endlessly funny romp with surprising depth beneath its surface.
GO: I'm going to start with a question I was asked when Fathermucker came out, of my portrayal of New Paltz in that book: are you concerned that all of Seattle will turn up the "freeze" when they read Bernadette? Because you destroy that place.
MS: I'm not at all worried. First off, the people who seem to love the book the most are the ones from Seattle. Not only do they find the book funny, but I think they find it especially hilarious that I'd do something so ballsy as move to their city and shred it. Second, the book ends up being very pro-Seattle, and not that you asked, but that's how I feel about the place now. (Although I didn't when I first moved here three years ago.) Also, I think there's a real sweetness to the book that rises above the individual rants.
GO: How about Canadians?
MS: Yeah, Canadians will probably be offended. But who cares?
GO: When I teach, I stress the idea that when we read a novel, we should have an idea of what it is that we're reading. Gatsby is Nick Carroway sitting in St. Paul jotting down ...
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