S4-EP20: Hilma Wolitzer, 92, on Writing Through Grief and Turning Domestic Life Into Art
Debbie talks with an extraordinary writer, 92-year-old Hilma Wolitzer.
Debbie talks to writer and novelist Hilma Wolitzer.
She recently published, at 92, a new book of short stories titled “Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket.” So yes, this is someone who is “making the most of growing older.”
Hilma’s stories of sharply observed domestic life were published in the Saturday Evening Post and Esquire in the 1960s and 1970s. She has taught writing at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, NYU, and Columbia. She’s also the author of nine novels and the recipient of national awards and fellowships.
Her husband of almost 70 years died of COVID in the first months of the pandemic. It was as if he vanished, she told Debbie.
She and Morty both got Covid in April of 2020. They were taken to separate hospitals in New York City.
She never got to say good-bye.
He died two days before she was released from the hospital and went home to her apartment.
As she tells Debbie on the podcast:
“There were his slippers next to the bed. There was a pair of his drugstore eyeglasses. He seemed to have vanished and that was the sense I tried to depict in (the final) story (of her new book). Disappearance rather than dying.”
She was encouraged by her daughters, New York Times bestselling novelist Meg Wolitzer and artist Nancy Wolitzer, to write through her grief and to turn her COVID experience into a short story.
She titled the new story, “The Great Escape.” It is as diamond sharp and perfect – and funny – as her earlier writing. There’s even sex.
Hilma tells it all in this conversation:
- What her writing process is
- Why she writes about ordinary domestic life
- Why and how she wrote through grief
- What it was like, over 50 years ago, to be a woman and a writer and not be taken seriously
Mentioned in this episode or useful:
- The Great Escape is Hilma‘s final short story in her new collection
- Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021)
- Morton Wolitzer obituary
- Hilma is mentioned in the first sentence: One Million (New York Times, May 13, 2022)
- Hilma’s daughter Meg Wolitzer
- Hilma’s daughter Nancy Wolitzer
- How Hilma Wolitzer Came Back From Covid Tragedy To Publish Her First Book In 8 Years—At The Age Of 91 (Forbes, Oct 22, 2021)
- Author Hilma Wolitzer lost her husband to COVID-19. So at 91, she wrote a story about it (LA Times, Aug. 26, 2021)
- Iris Murdoch
- Maxine Kumin
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