Books by LettyCottinPogrebin, Karen Jack/Jennifer Kaurman, and Michael S. Smith
A day at the beach doesn’t feel remotely complete without a good book in hand—something richly detailed and gripping, but not so dense that it requires silence to digest. This summer’s crop of terrific tomes includes offerings from a handful of Southern California–based luminaries. We caught up with four authors responsible for a trio of captivating new reads.
Interior designer Michael Smith has festooned some of SoCal’s most stunning private residences. His fourth book, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design, chronicles the collaborative creation of a single extraordinary house in Malibu.
How did you get the idea for the book? MICHAEL S. SMITH: I had this sense that the house would be really special when we started working on it. We thought we needed to document the camaraderie—the conspiracy to make something great.
What do you hope readers take away from the book? MSS: Houses are such a collaboration. It’s like making a movie. You’re always trying to create something special. And like a movie, you’re on location, and then the project goes away. I was hoping to preserve it.
How did Malibu inform your aesthetics? MSS: The idea that some rooms are about the sun and some rooms are a retreat from the sun was there. The [color] palette was informed by the physicality of the land. There aren’t a lot of prints, because looking out through the windows was enough. All the elements were there.
Author, social activist, and founding editor of Ms. magazine, LettyCottinPogrebin, penned this new self-help tome after battling breast cancer.
Why did you feel this was an important subject to mine? LETTYCOTTINPOGREBIN: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I became fascinated with my friends’ diverse reactions to me. Some were so awkward. Others spewed clichés… or said something insensitive like, “If you have to have a mastectomy, at least you’re married.” Others pulled away from me as if what I had was catching. Still others came too close and asked too many intrusive questions.
What are some mistakes people make with friends who are sick? LCP: Many people respond to the news of a friend’s diagnosis by saying something self-referential such as, “Oh, my aunt had that!” Or, “You think that’s bad; I had it worse.” Others respond by offering advice when the patient is already getting advice from their doctors. I hope people abandon the old illness etiquette and replace it with honesty.
What are some things people can do for a friend who is sick? LCP: Give them a foot rub or get them a gift certificate for a massage. Or give them free time—take their kids for the afternoon. Or offer to return all the voice mails they’re too tired to respond to. If they’re traveling to their doctors’ appointments or treatments, give them a gift certificate for a tankful of gas.
Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman Freud’s Mistress
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Los Angeles–based authors Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman reimagine the real-life romantic relationship between Sigmund Freud and his sister-in-law, MinnaBernays, in this sharp new work of historical fiction.
What interested you in writing about this relationship? KAREN MACK: So much has been written about Freud. But there’s so much about his personal life that has not been mined. The Minna question has fascinated historians for more than a century. She was his wife’s younger sister and his closest confidante. It’s amazing: The great figure famous for explaining human love and desire was himself caught up in this scandalous love affair.
What was the research like? KM: We spent three years studying Freud’s life. We were meticulous about the research—from the way his soup was served to the way his desk looked.
How would you describe MinnaBernays? JENNIFER KAUFMAN: She was the intellectual in the family. She was attractive, caustic—she was a huge critic and a huge follower of Freud’s work. For many years he relied on her as a muse, and she moved in with her sister and Freud. She was a terrific fictional character; she was almost perfect to write about.