About the author selected works
Myers’ academic career took her from teaching to academic administration at Bryn Mawr College as dean of the College, to Denison University as president for nine years, and to Sarah Lawrence College as president for nine years.
Myers retired in 2007 to write fiction full time. Her novel, Fugue for the Right Hand (see next column) published by Harvard Square Editions was released on October 7, 2014.
Myers is looking for an agent or a publisher for her latest novel, Exile. (See synopsis on the right hand column.)
Myers has published extensively in her professional life (non fiction books that have been best- sellers in their markets, scholarly articles, essays). Her opinion editorials on education published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor have been widely circulated and brought her national attention.
Her short fiction has appeared in The Reading Room, in Global City Review, and in The Commonline Journal.
Born in Morocco, Myers grew up and was educated in Paris until she moved permanently to the US in 1964. In 2007, she was named by President Chirac a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, the highest honor bestowed by the French government. Myers lives in Manhattan and Paris. She has completed her fourth novel.
Fugue for the Right Hand
Released on October 7, 2014, published by Harvard Square Editions.
Listen to an audio excerpt
View press release
Readings: September 30, 2 pm , Heimbold Center, at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY.
November 12, 7 pm, at Book Culture, 536 112th Street (and Broadway). Reception to follow.
February 18, Denison University, Granville, Ohio
Praise for Fugue for the Right Hand:
"Michele Myers's sharp, spare, timely novel Fugue for the Right Hand is many things--a didactic fiction driven by moral passion and rage at societal folly and injustice, a documentary fiction with the immediacy and fidelity of the best journalism, a satiric fiction about the way we live now. Most deeply, though, it is in its tutelary spirit and its deep sympathy for its characters a fairy tale of sleepers awakening to their own humanity."--Vijay Seshadri, recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
"Fugue for the Right Hand is a gem of a story. Fast paced, tightly written with irony and warmth."-Sir Arnold Wesker, playwright and author of Honey
An excerpt from
Fugue for the Right Hand:
I first saw her one early August morning on Riverside Park. A hazy and humid morning when the only things moving were the few runners in their wet t-shirts, plugs in their ears, skinny wires snaking into a phone or an i-pod in their shorts pocket. From where I lay, a bench where I spend my nights, I watched them, my eyes semi-closed, but they didn’t see me: they ran looking straight ahead, without a smile, arms bent at the elbow, pumping up and down. As if they were really getting somewhere. Why would they look at a bum like me in his sleeping bag — a dirty pinkish-brown affair with a broken zipper and a hood-like thing I pull over my head — with tears at the bottom, through which one of my feet sticks out?
She was startling. Startling because she looked at me and didn’t immediately look away. I kept my eyes half closed but I could see her just fine. I may be a crappy old tramp but I can tell and smell a beautiful woman any day. Particularly since she wore only the briefest shorts on legs so lithe I could imagine putting a finger on the ankle and slowly, slowly going all the way up where it is warm and wet. Startling because only in dreams anymore did I see such scantily clad apparitions that so much skin and full breasts were revealed.
She nodded as she passed me and I began to smile, hoping she would stop. She did slow down but swallowed quickly and resumed her speed, fast now, and she crossed Riverside Drive at 113th a block away, and I lost her. I felt an ache creep over me. Something about being a broken man, about dying, about things torn and diminished, about golden skin. It was a week before I saw her again.
The Last Broadcast
The worst day of my life. Well, almost. The worst was –– well forget it. How can you rate horrors. I am on. It’s going just fine. My new suit looks great, I am smiling, I feel good as I always do, when I deliver the news. I know what I am about to say, I hardly even need the notes, although I always glance at them to be sure I don’t miss something, but I never do. I never did. I write the material myself and go over it and over it, but I don’t memorize it, so I sound natural, a conversation with the viewers. So I am sitting at my desk, live, prime time, on a roll: “US scientists have successfully implanted artificial bladders grown in a lab from patients’ own cells into these patients. Prime Minister Tony – – Tony – –” but his last name is suddenly gone. GONE. I repeat in my head Tony, Tony, hoping the cadence will give me the last name, but nothing. Arnie in the recording room screams in the mike to which I am hooked up: “Blair, Blair. For God’s sake, Ken, look at the teleprompter.” I never look at the damned thing. Makes you look like you’re reading the news. “President Tony Blair,” I start again, “is scheduled to unveil his revolution plan today– –” “Ken, devolution,” I get in my ear. “Sorry, devolution plan today in parliament. An earthquake of a 5.5 magnitude has been recorded in ––” I stop again for a second that feels like an endless minute then and it’s like I am shitting in my pants, I am panicked, getting hot and I shoot a quick look at the teleprompter, so quick it will hardly be noticed “ ––in India.” What the fuck is happening to me, but I carry on as if everything is normal. “The death in the Djibuti ferry disaster has mounted to one hundred and nine. Scooter Libby says that President George ––” Another pause. For Christ sake, I can’t remember –– “George, George––” the President of the United States and I don’t remember his name? I’ve interviewed the man twice! I can see clearly that I glanced at the teleprompter, “President George Bush okayed leaks of secret CIA intelligence material.” I also see the sweat on my brow. But I go on looking straight into the camera. “President Mahmoud– –” and this time my pause is longer. I have rehearsed his name time and again, and I know the fucking name, I am one of the few who can actually roll it out without hesitation, but not today. I don’t know what’s happening to me today. Arnie prompts me again. “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces Iran has successfully enriched uranium. At a conference with Hamas, President Ahmadinejad,” no prompting this time,” told Hamas Palestinian leaders that ‘Israel was a rotten, dead tree that will be eliminated by one storm.’” And the camera at last fades out for a commercial. Arnie rushes to my desk.
“What the hell’s going on Ken? Are you sick? Not feeling well? What gives? Want someone to take over? ”
All I know is I feel like a rotten dead tree ready to be eliminated by a storm. Except I don’t have a clue yet about the enormity of that storm ...
The Last Broadcast is a tense, fast-moving story about a distinguished and popular TV anchorman slowly vanishing with dementia. Multiple voices tell the story in short suspenseful chapters that span thirty years of the lives of Ken Frank, his wife Sidney, his four children, and Sidney’s old boyfriend, as they cope with the news that it’s early dementia that makes Ken fumble his cues, miss lines, and hunt for words on his national evening broadcast. The kaleidoscope of different perspectives on Ken from the eyes of those who know him best gives the novel its dynamics: as the central character fades, those who love him grow and everything changes. It is a provocative and moving story of losses and gains as Ken’s fraying memory turns his family into strangers and his changes provoke unexpected reactions in him and those around him. Written perceptively with warmth, empathy, and humor, The Last Broadcast tells a vivid life-affirming story of characters who care and whom we care about.
The Real Thing
The drive West started like a nightmare. Ben rode shotgun, pressed hard against the door, his body turned away from me as much as the seat belt allowed, staring out. Looking at my son’s tangled hair, I kept remembering how Susie always ruffled it and pushed the bangs away from his eyes (Ben, don’t hide your beautiful face, darling). I touched his cheek, but he tensed up even more. I wanted to stop the car and take him into my arms to rock him the way I used to when he cried in the night as a baby, but I didn’t know how to soothe his anger for making him move away from his disappeared mother. The ache in my gut kept getting worse. When we got to Rochester, I stopped the car on the side of the road, unhooked my set belt and faced my son. “Look Ben.” I paused, careful to do it the way Susie might. “ We have a choice. We can grieve alone, or we can grieve together. Together’s better. I need your help and you need mine. We’ve lost the one person we loved more than anything. I know how much you miss her, honey. I know you didn’t want to leave the house and leave her behind. Maybe it’s a mistake to pick up and go, but I can’t face our old house without her, our life without her, the students, wondering which one of them was driving that car. I just can’t. But she is coming with us, Ben, and she will always be in our hearts. I know it’s hard for you, but we have to start a new life. She would want us to. And it doesn’t mean we have to forget anything.”
After a silence that seemed endless, Ben slowly unbuckled his seat belt, slid toward me and hugged me, his thin arms barely reaching around. We sobbed, Ben’s hands gripping me hard. Later, we drove all the way to Percy Hall, a college-owned faculty residence, stopping only once for gas and to grab dried-up tuna sandwiches.
A possibly fake Vermeer stands between a father and a son. An alleged plagiarized dissertation threatens to ruin a successful college president’s career. If you’ve ever wondered whether you might not be a bit of a fake yourself, or if someone you love may not be all that he or she appears to be, or if you care about art and originals, you will enjoy reading Myers’ novel, The Real Thing. The questions raised in this suspenseful story are not easy to answer: What makes art art? Are ideas really free? How heavy a price should one pay for crossing a line? Myers sets her story on a fictitious Midwestern liberal arts college, a world she knows wells and loves, warts and all.
Elliot slips the frayed rope off the post, and the wobbly gate creaks as it swings opens. At the count of five, it comes to rest against the moss-covered rock he placed there years ago. He could walk the path his eyes closed. Today he might as well, it is barely discernible. The morning mist, thick and moist, envelops the hill, dissolves the lambs in pink haze. Their bleating, so habitual he hardly ever notices it, is gone today, and all he hears is silence. He shivers and begins his walk tentatively.
One mile to the ruins on top of the hill, a turn to the picnic stone, then back. He should get new sneakers, he thinks, the soles of these old ones are so thin he can feel every bruising stone. But he likes the precariousness; his feet wobble on the uneven surface, always close to tripping but somehow, with an imperceptible twist of the ankle this way or that, he keeps his balance and moves forward. About to fall is how he thinks of his life. He teeters on the edge, not of one life but many, not one woman but all who have landed on his hands, on his face, in his bed. He never tires of women. He listens to them, discovers them, replays them in his head and on his pages. Even plain ones give him a thrill. Keeps his writing going. He smiles. Women or not, he writes. Always has. But with a new woman hope returns – maybe this time, he’ll melt and feel something, not just take notes.
He writes the same way he walks, hesitant, one precarious word after another, never sure he’s getting anywhere, let alone where he wants to go. He writes daily on the table he built for himself in the study, an old cow-shed that stands alone a few feet from the house. The table is solid oak, L-shaped, flush against the corner walls, under two windows. When he stares out the south window, he sees the low stone wall trying to hold back an aggressive blackberry bush. The west window opens every night onto sunsets that delight him. The hills glow, honey and cinnamon in the fall, painted with strokes of yellow and orange from the trees. The dark green hedges cut squares and rectangles like Mondrian thick lines and order the vast fields that lose themselves into the sky. Lambs everywhere. They belong to his neighbor David – the farm down the road. He’s at peace when he looks out, captures for a moment a serenity that doesn’t belong to him, to his character, or his moods, and shuts off the tension he clings to in order to write. He loves the house, the hills, the sky. He listens to Aaron Copeland and feels American.
Celebrated writer, Elliot Freedman, at fifty-five, sees his life changing in unexpected ways. His wife, Tillie, has kicked him out of their New York apartment and wants to live on her own, forcing him to live in seclusion in Vermont where he meets Lexie Bernstein, a professor at Columbia known for her prize-winning biographies of literary figures, who wants to write his. Despite his professed intention to woo Tillie back and Lexie’s to keep her professional distance, their intimacy grows deeper, as does their ambivalence about commitment. UNQUIET LIVES chronicles a few life changing months in the story of Elliot, his estranged wife, his moralistic father (and subject of Elliot’s latest masterpiece), his ambitious new lover, and a stranger who will reorder the family landscape and shake Elliot’s core beliefs about who he is, where he came from, and what he really wants from life. It is about identity, family narratives, secrets, and commitment – or the lack of it. Above all, it is about the possibility of change and rediscovery when well established convictions and self-definitions are shaken. UNQUIET LIVES is a literary yet accessible piece of fiction that deftly explores family interactions and their meanings. It is an ambitious and complex novel about characters facing conflicts they can no longer avoid, who try to overcome the constraints of identities they are stuck with to make new lives for themselves.
Until I was fourteen, I lived with my parents in Aubagne, a working class town near Marseille on the way to Toulon, right on the A 50. I liked Aubagne because the men I met at the bar where my mother was a waitress told off-color stories. They stood by the counter in their blue overalls, drank their wine in the morning and pastis in the afternoon, and I listened to their accent – Pastis accent, I called it. Like Jojo, who was not young any more.
Wiry and angular, he drove trucks to Nice and back to Marseille. He always stopped at the bar to eat something, whatever the plat du jour happened to be, any time of the day he bounced in. He took huge bites of his food, washed them down with gulps of red wine and kept talking, his mouth always full. He railed against the cops whose presence en masse on their motorcycles that day slowed the traffic to a grind, had no use for the tourists who cluttered his roads, or for the goddamn women drivers who did not know their right from their left or their ass from a hole in the ground. They ought to stick to cooking and babies and stop “emmerder le monde,” bothering the shit out of everybody, he said. I loved hearing his jocular and slangy language that infuriated my mother precisely because I would hang onto his every word. He would wink at me and rail some more, knowing he’d get a rise out of her.
“Merde and goddammit to hell, Suzanne, where the fuck is my wine?”
“Jojo, for God’s sake, watch your mouth in front of the kid!” my mother yelled at him.
He’d pay no attention and I’d giggle. I remember the giggling. I still hear it. And I can imagine – maybe even sort or recall – what he said or might have said.
“The kid’s smarter than you! Look how her big brown eyes shine. She’s having fun! Aren’t you, honey bun?”
I’d nod, wait for a sign to come over, and climb on his lap.
“Right, honey, let’s have a good time. Don’t listen to your mama!” And we’d play the barbichette game, holding each other’s chin, pretending we had a beard, and singing at the top of our voice je te tiens, tu me tiens par la barbichette, (I hold you by the hair of your chiny-chin-chin.) It all ended in big fits of laughter and loud raspberries on my cheeks. Jojo was bombastic and feisty, but he was funny and left good tips. I counted all the coins.
Bella is the coming-of-age story of Isabelle Martinez, set in Marseille and in Paris. The figure that haunts Isabelle throughout the novel is Ricardo’s, her father - Cardo to her as she is Bella to him. Bella is the story of her collusion with him, the father she adored, and the emotional ravage of their relationship.
Bella captures Isabelle’s repressed rage towards her mother for not seeing, or pretending not to see, the devastation Ricardo caused in their lives.
It will take years for Isabelle to slowly rebuild a relationship with her mother, develop a friendship with a photographer with whom she works, painstakingly re-appropriate her body and her mind, and finally make a decision that will change her life.
Bella is a story about creating a new narrative for the self to get past traumatic events. Bella’s ability to finally reconstruct her identity as someone other than a seductive, complicit, and abused little girl, comes from the cultivation of her imagination. It is an act of imagination that will ultimately anchor her spirit and allows her to move forward.
The New York Times: A Student is Not an Input
The Washington Post: The Cost of Bucking College Rankings
The Christian Science Monitor: Liberal Arts Colleges Prepare Students for Life
Jacob Levy, a French Jew, a Buchenwald survivor, makes a new life in New York after WWII and wins fame, fortune, and prizes writing books about the Holocaust and the nature of evil. Who is Jacob Levy? A voice for the victims who had none or a wily self-promoter? A man struggling with a tortured conscience or a fake? A passionate broken man who can’t love again, or a manipulator who didn’t bother to look for the woman he loved when he survived the war? A man who can’t get over a trauma, or one who denies a cowardly past? Nellie Talito, the woman whom he loved and who loved him, whose daughter is actually his, who is married to another man, believes him dead until they meet again almost thirty years later. In a story that spans four decades, with a backdrop of political history, Silence and Lies asks questions that still haunt us today: are forgiveness and reconciliation possible, personally and collectively, and are we capable of learning from history.
It is a war story, although, while they figure prominently in the first chapters, it isn’t about WWII or the Holocaust per se. It is a love story that is unlived for decades. It is a story about what happens to those psychologically and physically wounded in a war, about how decisions made in the heat of battle as well as unpredictable events may change how survivors reconstruct their lives with or without those they loved. It is about the futility of trying to forget the past, and what it takes to become whole again.