From fiction writer and journalist Carol Bergman comes an anthology of NOMADS, Books 1, 2 & 3 in one e-book volume. In these subtle, profound and original stories, each using a different narrative persona, Bergman demonstrates her experience as a phrasemaker and storyteller. Like Lydia Davis and Czeslaw Milosz, her writing is both unique and difficult to classify, yet its cumulative affect is clear. Humorous, perceptive, precise, wry, sometimes chilling, she writes about war and peace, love and disappointment, the mundane and the sublime, with deep attention and warmth.
Carol Bergman’s articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Salon.com. Her essay, “Objects of Desire” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize; her short stories have appeared in many literary magazines. She is the author of biographies of Mae West and Sidney Poitier, a memoir, "Searching for Fritzi," two books of novellas "Sitting for Klimt" and "Water Baby" and two novels, "Say Nothing" and "What Returns to Us." She compiled and edited "Another Day in Paradise; International Humanitarian Workers Tell Their Stories," nominated for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. She teaches writing at New York University's School of Professional Studies, College of Applied Liberal Arts.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR
Q: I'd like to discuss the entire NOMADS triology if you don't mind. How did you begin? Is it finished?
A: I began in 2000 when I was working on "Another Day in Paradise," a book about international humanitarian workers. I compiled, edited the book, and ghosted some of the stories. It took two years and it was engrossing, very intense. I had to travel a bit and work with many stories about war, atrocities and natural disasters.
In order to keep myself grounded while working on the "Another Day" project, I began to sketch small stories. It was all I had time to do for myself in between the traveling, interviewing and editing.
Q: Why did you decide to collect these stories and publish them?
A: I showed a few to writer friends and they commented on the precision of the writing, the unusual genre I'd chosen (similar to Lydia Davis, they said), and the experimental feel of the work—not fact, not fiction, something new and different for me—as I either write journalism, blogs, or dedicated fiction. So I decided to write more short short stories and see what happened. It was an exploration, a writing discipline. What is fact and what is fiction? Do we always have to disclaim when we are not writing journalism? My view is that if we mess with the facts we are creating factoids (a Norman Mailer word) and therefore we are totally in the realm of fiction. I certainly tell my nonfiction students to be careful—not to conflate or fabricate. NOMADS are fictions and understanding that, accepting it, gave me freedom.
Titles began to accumulate in my journal. Before long I had enough pieces for the first volume.
Q: Why did you decide to use actors for the launch of the first and second NOMADS at the Cornelia Street Café ? Will you be using actors for the launch of Nomads 3?
A: It happened serendipitously. I reconnected with my daughter's long-ago babysitter, Stephanie Stone. She's an actor. I had moved into Stephanie's neighborhood and we would walk and talk on Saturday mornings. She invited me to a poetry reading—all actors reading well-known poems. The actors' expression evoked new interpretations. And, of course, they are articulate and can project. So I said to Stephanie, "What if I had a launch and I sat in the audience and you read my work?" We rehearsed an evening with two other actor/directors: Constance George and Burke Walker. I am grateful to all of them. They told me that many of the stories read like monologues. Some even have dialogue and were read by two of the actors.
Most importantly, to hear my work read and re-interpreted by the actors was an exciting experience for me. It changed the way I wrote the pieces for Nomads 2 and Nomads 3. I sometimes hear them "spoken." I'd taken a playwriting class—and failed dismally. The actors did well but I didn't; my instinct is always to write narrative prose. I came up with ideas but couldn't get anything to work using dialogue. Now I think the class did have a delayed effect. Maybe I'll eventually be able to write a "play." I think my playwriting teacher, Richard Caliban at Gotham Writers Workshop, would be pleased.
And, yes, I will launch Nomads 3 using actors to read a selection of stories.
Q. Is the NOMADS series finished?
A. I think it is—mostly—because I want to get on to other things. And once I have that desire, I know I am done. Most writers move into new projects with ease; we rarely look back. And though I am calling NOMADS a trilogy because I wrote each book over time, my sense is that it is all one work, and that it is finished.