A Review of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: A Modern Reimagining” by Sarah Daltry
Perfect for readers on the go, this short but sweet novella is an independently published modern take on T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Told in flashbacks and present day scenes, Daltry weaves a modern summer beachside romance between two young lovers. Echoing the original poem, she expresses lonely, desperate themes as seen here: “For eighteen years, summer was our chance to find the key, and every fall brought disappointment, when we ended up back at school with no new stories and we were the same people we’d been three months earlier.” The narrator of Eliot’s poem is reimagined in Daltry’s short piece as she traces his life from a hopeful past to a disillusioned present. Told in the first-person narrative, main character Jake meets Emily, a beach town resident, at a general store where he works. Their romance quickly follows and hastens its pace through the summer months. As autumn approaches, the two begin to question what will become of their love and struggle to make every attempt for a lasting affair. As the cruel hands of fate sweep in, they provide an unexpected close to the short novel. This accessible, modern interpretation of such a widely read poem is a perfect bridge between readers of novels and readers of poems. Grab yourself a latte and this book and see if you agree with Eliot that “in a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
GW: What inspired you to begin writing?
SD: I made up stories my entire life. My parents worked a lot and we didn’t have a lot of money. I was always reading, spending many days in the library. Writing always came natural to me.
GW: How did you come to choose T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to write your novella?
SD: I taught high school English. I love classic literature. I started working on this piece, which took me almost two years to write. I’ve always loved that whole time period. For example, when the movie “Midnight in Paris” came out, I fell in love with the setting and time. I was never a fan of Hemingway until I read “The Sun Also Rises.” I loved teaching authors such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Eliot. I was inspired to think about nostalgia and really loved Eliot’s poem. There were so many interpretations to be made with unspoken pieces that were relevant to any decade.
GW: Do you feel that you relate to either of the main characters in your story?
SD: I relate to the man a bit, but he is older than me. I used personal observations in reimagining the poem. I don’t live in New York City, but I have lived in New England my whole life so I tried to use a city I was familiar with. I thought, “How could I take these observations and make it into a story?” It was an experiment.
GW: Can you talk a little about independent publishing, what made you decide to go this route, and the difficulty level?
SD: I’ve been writing for a long time. I have a lot of novels and many half-written pieces. Fifteen years ago, I wanted to be a writer. I tried the traditional publishing route and got rejected many times, so I only ended up publishing a couple short stories here or there. I liked teaching and thought I would go after writing someday. A few years ago my grandfather died and I was talking to my grandmother about writing. I realized my aunt, who’s in her 60s, now never acted on her talent for writing. I had all these ideas for writing, but knew that I would never actually do anything unless I started writing seriously. My first novel was a vampire romance based on biblical themes and was published through an imprint of Harlequin. I decided to work on young adult fiction, specifically a college story. It turned into a sexy romance because of the stigma that “sex sells.” It worked for self-publishing and took off for a little, but I knew I didn’t want this. I wrote “Backward Compatible” and tried to go traditional with that, but I was told there would be no market for it. I realized, however, that this is what I wanted to be writing. I was making the choice to write what I want, not to write what’s marketable. I am not a big advocate for either self-publishing or the traditional route, however, I would rather sell 20 copies and be on a shelf somewhere than sell millions writing about something I don’t care about. I’m willing to work really hard, but would like someone to filter it. I would prefer the traditional route, but appreciate the self-publishing route, which gives opportunity.
GW: What are you reading now and who are some of your favorite authors?
SD: Right now I am reading “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” I finished “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” this summer. Also on my list is the third novel in the “Anna and the French Kiss” series, “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins and “Dreams of Gods and Monsters” by Laini Taylor. My favorite classical authors are Hemingway, the Brontes and Salinger. My favorite contemporary authors include Courtney Summers, Lauren DeStefano, Jodi Picoult and Tom Perrotta. I like to read realistic contemporary and young adult fiction. A lot of adult fiction tends to have a certain focus, genre or literary. Sometimes I just want to read a story that isn’t genre, just realistic, but also not trying too hard to be literary.
GW: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
SD: You need to know what your goal is. You need to write the story that matters to you. Ask yourself, “Do you want to be a storyteller or a businessperson? Why are you writing it?” It took me a while to follow my own advice, but I’m happier now writing a book I’m happy with. Your first question you should ask yourself is “Why are you writing?”