Monday, March 28, 2011

Hannah Tinti and The Good Thief

Rochester had a notable author in town this week, Hannah Tinti, giving talks of all kinds. The first one I attended was a reading and discussion of her award-winning novel The Good Thief followed by a book signing.

If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stevenson, this is a book for you. If not, don’t sweat it! The language is elegant without being pretentious and this baby moves. A missing hand, grave robbers, corpses who sit up in their burial shrouds, a dwarf emerging from a chimney who pays for his supper with an elaborately carved toy—it’s hard to put down.

This novel is good fun for readers and extra tasty for writers. The setting of 1800’s New England comes to life with the smell of oily boys bathed bimonthly and the sight of an entire town of women with their ears to the ground after a mine collapse, listening for their husband's voices.

The characters are unique, each an outsider marked by a striking physical attribute (a gentle giant who can snap a man's neck with his bare hands) or habit (a swindler with tales taller than a sequoia). There’s symbolism in rocks, parallels with the lives of saints, and an underlying theme of redemption.

graveyard 3
Image courtesy: Calamity Meg

Ms. Tinti’s story-behind-the-story was just as rich. Many of the details in The Good Thief can be traced back to a traumatic event she experienced as a child in a Salem, MA graveyard. I won’t give away the details as they’ll be published in a group of personal essays by several authors.

Next post I’ll give the 411 on the master class in writing presented by Ms. Tinti.

Have you let your personal life creep into your manuscript?


  1. Oh, have I! During editing, though, I tend to take it out. It just "creeps" in when I'm writing.

    Speaking of "creeps" ... that picture is way creepy.


  2. Isn't it cool? According to the photographer, they were smoking. I got lucky with this one - a shot of a Salem, MA graveyard.

  3. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for old fashioned classic lit type authors to be published now a days so that's saying something about The Good Theif! Thanks for bringint it to light!

  4. Yes, my personal life creeps in. I let it stay if it matches the story, or edit it out if it doesn't fit or makes me uncomfortable.

    The book sounds fascinating.


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