Victor Lodato

2015 Fellowship Recipient

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Victor Lodato in his Ashland study.

Victor Lodato in his Ashland study.

Sabina Poole

By James Bash

“Because I come from a background in theater, I tend to speak as I write,” says author Victor Lodato. “For me, a story always begins with character and voice.  Often, the first few paragraphs or pages arrive in my head—a kind of music or rhythm, which I then follow, in an attempt to discover what’s on my mind.”

Following voices and characters hither and yon has worked incredibly well for Lodato, whose successful writing career spans poems, plays, short stories and novels. His plays have won numerous awards and have been produced widely throughout the nation and overseas. His short stories have been featured in The New Yorker and other magazines. His novel, “Mathilda Savitch,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has been translated into 13 languages and published in 16 countries.

Lodato’s writing often deals with people who are living on the edges, externally and internally. “Mathilda Savitch,” for example, is written from the perspective of an adolescent girl, and deals with her emotional struggles after the death of her sister. Its title character has been called by one critic, “a metaphysical Holden Caulfield for the terrifying present day.”

“I don’t really map things out before I begin a project,” explains Lodato. “I like to stay dumb, as a writer, especially in the early stages of creating a story.  I’ll trip myself up if I try to control things or pretend that I know more than I really do. When I started “Mathilda Savitch,” I thought it might be a monologue for a play.  But then the monologue kept going and, after a while, I realized that I was writing a novel.”

Lodato, who lives in Ashland, is currently polishing his second novel, an epic family saga. He readily acknowledges that it is the most complicated thing that he has undertaken as a writer.

“Writing this new novel has really stretched me,” remarks Lodato. “Moving from plays to fiction has changed my brain, changed the way I think about narrative, and it’s been a really exciting time for me, creatively.”

Because he has had to juggle his new novel with other projects, such as his musical “Arlington,” Lodato has labored on the novel for the past eight years, but doesn’t regret a minute of it.

“You can lose your mind if you think too much about time,” adds Lodato. “In our culture, one often feels that everything should be done in five minutes. It seems insane, sometimes, to say that you’ve taken on a 10-year project.”

 

Oregon Arts Commission

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