Shakespeare, magical realism and “House of Cards”: A conversation between authors Alexi Zentner and Téa Obreht


Tea Obreht, Salon

June 10, 2014


The two acclaimed novelists debate influence, literary history, and discuss Zentner’s terrific new “Lobster Kings”

Alexi Zentner’s new novel, “The Lobster Kings,” is set in a lobster fishing village and focuses on Cordelia Kings. Inspired by “King Lear,” Zentner’s second novel is the story of Cordelia’s struggle to maintain her island’s way of life in the face of danger from offshore and the rich, looming, mythical legacy of her family’s namesake.

“The Lobster Kings” has already been getting raves from Ben Fountain, Stewart O’Nan and the Toronto Star,  which said “Zentner displays more talent and controlled craftsmanship in ‘The Lobster Kings’ than many other writers will manage in a career’s worth of novels.”

Alexi and Téa Obreht (“The Tiger’s Wife”) met recently to talk about “The Lobster Kings’” inspiration and influence, Shakespeare, writing outside your voice, and the way myth and magic work in fiction.

Alexi Zentner: We just celebrated Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and “The Lobster Kings” riffs on “King Lear,” so let me start by throwing out the idea that all literature is in conversation with all of the literature that came before it. While Shakespeare wasn’t the first voice in the room, in North America and Europe, he’s one of the loudest voices. Is that something that resonates with you?

Téa Obreht: When you’re talking about Shakespeare, every writer and reader that you come in contact with has been influenced by Shakespeare. If not directly, then certainly by the way he lays out his plots and the way that he steals myths and restructures them. What I’ve realized over the last couple of years is that even literature that you aren’t aware of and that you haven’t read influences you, because it influences so many other people and so many things that you’ve read. It’s like bio-accumulation. You get the most of it because you’re the end of the line. You’re the newest.  [...continued]

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