From left, Galway Kinnell, Robert Hass, Olds, and Brenda Hillman in the Oakley house at the Community of Writers, Olympic Valley, California, 1989. Courtesy of Sharon Olds and the Community of Writers.
Sharon Olds published her first book, Satan Says, in 1980, at the age of thirty-seven. The book is organized into four sections, “Daughter,” “Woman,” “Mother,” and “Journey,” and it begins with its title poem, whose speaker is locked in a box she can open only by repeating after Satan: “Say shit, say death, say fuck the father.” At the time, Olds—who was born in San Francisco, graduated from Stanford, and received a Ph.D. in English from Columbia—was married to a psychiatrist, and she spent her days on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, caring for their two young children. Not long after the book’s publication, she told me last year, someone who had invited her to give a reading picked her up at the airport and said, “I thought you would look angrier.”
From the Archive, Issue 244
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.