Sunday, October 17

Margaret Atwood to Edit Collaborative Modern Decameron for the Covid Era | Books

In the Decameron of Boccaccio, a group of travelers take refuge from the Black Death in a villa on the outskirts of Florence and share their stories. In an upcoming modern take on the Covid era, from authors ranging from John Grisham to Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, the characters are a group of neighbors in a Manhattan blockhouse during the coronavirus pandemic.

Edited by Margaret Atwood, Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering is a collaborative novel devised by author Douglas Preston to support other writers during the pandemic. With collaborators that also include Tess Gerritsen, Emma Donoghue, Celeste Ng, Dave Eggers and Angie Cruz, the book is set during the early days of the crisis, as a diverse group of neighbors left behind “when the rich flee the town “meet on the roof of your building and start sharing your stories.

“The germ of the idea occurred to me when I read the Decameron as a teenager. I’m a collector of stories, and my initial thought was to put all of those stories into a narrative framework like the Decameron, in which a group of people retreat to a farm on the coast of Maine during a pandemic. But when I tried to write it, the result was inconsistent, so I quickly gave it up, “Preston said. “Then came a real pandemic.”

Preston is president of the Authors Guild, and the writers’ corps had been thinking of doing an anthology. “But anthologies can be pretty boring,” Preston said. “It occurred to me that the Decameron idea could be brought to the present day and involve New Yorkers trapped in a tenement house during Covid, who gather on the roof every night and start telling stories to pass the time, all kinds of stories: outrageous, moving, funny, horrifying, tragic and spooky. “

Atwood agreed to act as editor and invited, Preston said, “an eclectic group of writers, from romance novelists to Shakespearean scholars, from poets to mystery writers, from children’s authors to journalists and science fiction writers,” to contribute.

“I was amazed at how many authors loved the idea and wanted to get involved,” Preston said. “They not only wrote stories, but they also created characters on the roof to tell them. In this way, Fourteen Days became a kind of protest against the Balkanization of contemporary literary culture. The result is entertaining and lively, not unlike the stories told at a dinner party late at night by guests of questionable sobriety. I don’t think such an eclectic group of authors or works has ever come together like this before. “

Atwood said that the characters created by his collaborators “have a lot to say to each other about life during the pandemic and even more about life in general, sometimes getting into open arguments, debates or fights, and sometimes finding a solution in moments. unexpected moments of empathy and connection. “

The writers remain anonymous until the end of the book, when it is revealed who wrote what story. “Reading the book is a fun literary guessing game, but it also has a deeper message, being a thumb in the eye of the literary celebrity and the signature fetish,” Preston said.

The Authors Guild has signed an agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the US and Vintage in the UK to publish Fourteen Days in Spring 2022. A “major” donation from The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins means that all contributors will receive an honorarium for the project, but all proceeds will go to the Authors Guild Foundation, which supports American writers; a recent survey found that the authors reported losing 49% of their pre-pandemic income on average.

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