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Picturing a World


When I first started researching ANONYMITY, writer Polly Shulman suggested I look for Topless Towers, a 1921 novel by Margaret Ashmun. It is set in a Morningside Heights apartment building and gave me lots of leads for details of apartment life. It opens:

There was no doorman at the Laureana apartment house. It had not achieved that degree of flunkyism; nevertheless, there was a sufficiently impressive entrance, with Oriental rugs, carved Jacobean chairs, and a lift of marble steps leading to the elevator.

No Thin Man Art Deco this!

Yet as I read it, I mentally imposed a more streamlined look to Ashmun’s Laureana than the text really implied. Knowing that I needed to achieve a correct image of an apartment building in 1908 for my own imaginary Riverview Arms, I searched out images and read contemporary articles on decorating, apartment design, etc. I believe our actions are influenced by our surroundings; and so to achieve authenticity in my characters' behavior and motivation, I need to know their world. Readers, however, are free to make their own misinterpretations—just as I did with Topless Towers!

Topless Towers is now available in Google Books, but I can't seem to make a link work.

To hear Margarete Arndt-Ober sing, click here.
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