The novelist and columnist Pia de Jong reads from her most recent work and discusses her life as a writer in the United States.
“You found me,” the old man in the knitted sweater whispers in a soft, hoarse voice. I wonder about the sweater, since this is one of the hottest days of the year. He looks out from the doorway of his old house beside the canal.
I’ve just rung his doorbell to tell him that his keys are hanging in his lock. A cluster of different keys, crowded on a wrinkled brown leather trunk label. I still remember the hassle when I once left my keys outside in the lock and they vanished.
Utterly confused following the recovery of her deathly ill daughter, she began to write. (And how!) But when Pia de Jong (Lange dagen) came to the US with husband Robbert Dijkgraaf and children, she practically had to start all over again. “I missed the language. The French have a beautiful word for it - dépaysement. I was without a country; disoriented.”
Madame X. In terms of our profiles, I’m told, I look like her. But I’m not so pleased with my profile, so it’s with some trepidation I find myself looking for the famous portrait by John Singer Sargent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Why were Americans not as outraged by the Charlie Hebdo shootings as were Europeans? If anything, the reaction in the U.S. has been strikingly muted. Here there were no mass demonstrations anywhere close to the scale of the Paris march where the absence of President Obama and other top-tier administration of officials was noted with dismay.
‘Pick you up tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.,” my friend says to me. I glance dubiously at my watch. That’s rush hour at my house.
“Okay,” she quickly adds, “make it 7-ish.”
"The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses."
With that opening sentence of Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth stepped into his writing career in 1959 at the age of 26. So it had the feeling of a bookend this past Friday night when, with the 81-year-old Roth sitting smiling in the audience, Meryl Streep walked onto the stage of Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus.
Read April madness: The problem with American college admissions, originally published The Washington Post, Sunday Outlook, March 21, 2014.
by Pia de Jong and Lanny Jones
The guard in the kiosk raises the gate and waves the truck into a paved road winding through an expanse of snow-covered fields, ponds, and fountains that might as well be in a French country estate. But this is the corporate headquarters of Bristol-Myers Squibb on Route 206 in Lawrenceville. We park in a brick courtyard, almost a piazza, as smiling people carry out two dozen bags packed with cans and boxes of cereal, tomato sauce, meatballs, and all the canned delicacies prepared by Chef Boyardee.