Her new novel, The View From Penthouse B is wonderfully wry, as fans of Lipman’s eleven novels have come to expect, but this time with a semi-autobiographical twist. Her lead character, Gwen-Laura Schmidt, like Lipman herself, is a recent widow navigating unfamiliar terrain as a single woman in New York.
Lipman’s husband Bob Austin died in 2009 from a rare neurodegenerative disease. She often wrote about Bob for the Coupling column she wrote for the Boston Globe Magazine in 2005-06, and wrote movingly in The New York Times about the experience of losing Bob soon after he died. Many of these columns, and others appear in some form in Lipman’s new nonfiction collection, I CanÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½t Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays, released concurrently to The View From Penthouse B.
The essays reflect Lipman’s trademark humor, but also gut-wrenching poignancy of family, love, the writing life, and loss. “Her essays celebrate an uncommon virtue: common decency,” Dominique Browning writes in her New York Times review of both books. It’s a claim even self-deprecating Lipman has to agree with. “I have a very good friend who, soon after Bob died, when I would sometimes have to apologize for being a cheerful person, said to me, ‘I think your default setting is cheerful.”
Recently, Lipman tried her comedic hand at Twitter–with a vengeance–committing to a short rhyming tweet every day throughout the entire 2012 election season. “I never skipped a day except two Yom Kippurs. I’m not even observant but I thought it was a good excuse,” she said. The resulting 500 tweets became a new book, her third of the year, Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes From the Political Circus.
While her unabashedly positive spirit fuels her comedic side, it is Lipman’s sensitivity and deep love for her family-Bob and her beloved son, Ben–that combine to create an added layer of emotion and feeling that only someone who so openly carries her heart on her sleeve can convey.
In this interview and short reading, recorded at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C., Lipman discusses both books and her life after Bob. She also reads an essay from I Can’t Complain called “Sex Ed”, a hilarious retelling of her husband’s explanation to their then-fifth-grade son about how babies are conceived.
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