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In Conversation with Courtney Maum in Kingston

  • Rough Draft Bar & Books 82 John St. Kingston, NY USA (map)

I’ll be hosting Courtney Maum and her novel Costalegre, which has been racking up pre-publication notices all over. We’ll talk Peggy Guggenheim, Mexico, upstate living, writing advice, and maybe even horses.

About the book:

“[A] spectacular high-wire act that dazzles and devastates.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel

Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for except for a mother who loves her back. 

It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”―artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime.  To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home.

The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected 15-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves.

About Courtney:
Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novels TOUCH and I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU, which were both selected by such outlets as O Magazine, Time Magazine, The New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire and others as one of the best books of summer. (TOUCH was a New York Times editor's choice and an NPR Best Books of 2017 pick.) Her chapbook NOTES FROM MEXICO is part travelogue and part eulogy and is available here. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra. She currently works as a product namer for M·A·C cosmetics and other companies from her home in Litchfield County, CT, where she founded the learning collaborative, The Cabins which will take place again in the summer of 2020. Courtney has two new books forthcoming in 2019: COSTALEGRE (Tin House), a novel about European surrealists fleeing World War II, and BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting and surviving your first book (Catapult), a humorous guide to help aspiring authors navigate their debut publishing experience.