Saturday, September 09, 2006


Nell Freudenberger

Harvard-educated Nell Freudenberger is a New Yorker who has taught English in Bangkok and New Delhi. Among her many works, she is the author of The Dissident, in which a Chinese painter is the guest of a dysfunctional family in Beverly Hills.

Nell's favorite piece of cockroach literature is a William Gass story called "Order of Insects." The narrator is a housewife whose fear of water bugs — Periplaneta orientalis — turns into a fascination with their construction; "I...observed the movement of the jaws, the stalks of the antennae, the skull-shaped skull, the lines banding the abdomen, and found an intensity in the posture of the shell, even when tipped, like that in the gaze of Gauguin's natives' eyes. The dark plates glisten. They are wonderfully shaped; even the buttons of the compound eyes show a geometrical precision which prevents my earlier horror. It isn't possible to feel disgust toward such an order. Nevertheless, I reminded myself, a roach...and you a woman."

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