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The More I Owe You: A Novel Paperback – May 25, 2010


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The More I Owe You: A Novel + Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares + Reaching for the Moon
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 1St Edition edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582435766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582435763
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first novel, memoirist Sledge (Mother and Son) imagines the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop and her lover, socialite and architect Lota de Macedo Soares, while they lived together in Brazil during the 1950s and '60s. Both women struggle with their demons as, from a remote mountain compound in Samambaia (where Lota has designed and built a glass house), Elizabeth wins the Pulitzer Prize and Lota rises to power in the turbulent political sphere of Rio de Janeiro. The book imagines much of the couple's tumultuous, tragically short relationship, based partially on Elizabeth's surviving letters, journals, and drafts (though her correspondence with Lota was burned by Lota's ex-lover). Sledge gives contour to their lives while artfully evoking Brazil's primeval rural landscape and uniquely urbane Rio (half jungle and half twentieth-century megalopolis), and peppers his narrative with appearances by notable contemporaries like Robert Lowell and Frank O'Hara. This is not the first fictionalized history of the couple during this period (when Bishop wrote Questions of Travel and The Scream), but Sledge delivers a sensitive and engrossing variation. (June)
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From Booklist

The intensely private and much-revered real-life poet Elizabeth Bishop is vividly and imaginatively portrayed in Sledge's debut novel about Elizabeth's time in Brazil and her lengthy relationship with the riveting, mercurial Lota de Macedo Soares. Elizabeth travels to the half-wild, half-civilized megalopolis of Rio in the 1950s, and into the arms of the enticing Lota, the woman with whom she ends up living in a glass house in the Samambaian hills. Lota's ceaseless motion, with its germ of desperation, heightened Elizabeth's chronic anxiety, which she remedied by drinking herself numb to her self-doubt. Sledge's cinematic novel is as lush and fecund as the jungle itself, with its innumerable fruits, ferns, and hidden dangers, leaving readers with the indelible image of a brilliant, tormented woman writing tirelessly through the tropic night by the light of a kerosene lamp, her creativity fueled by “an injection of cortisone (for asthma) plus two cc's of adrenaline, a whiff of norisodrine sulphate, and a blast of gin and tonic.” Strong and intoxicating indeed. --Whitney Scott

More About the Author

Michael Sledge is the author of a memoir, Mother and Son, and has contributed to a number of literary journals. He is co-founder of the Oaxifornia arts studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, and lives in both Mexico and Oakland, California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on December 25, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With the success of Michael Cunningham's The Hours: A Novel and Colm Toibin's The Master: A Novel, it has become somewhat of a cliche for novelists to write biographical historic novels of literary figures. Michael Sledge's entry into this increasingly crowded field, however, is mostly a triumph. His novel about the love affair of the poet Elizabeth Bishop with the wealthy Lota de Macedo Soares and their life together in Brazil in the 1950's and '60's is an absorbing tale with remarkably few missteps for a first novel.

In his recent book, The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures), Orhan Pamuk writes that the novelist's first duty is pictorial, to allow the reader to see the events of the novel. In this respect, Sledge succeeds wonderfully. His descriptions of the scenic wonders of Brazil are precise, original and evocative. In this way he recalls another gay novelist, David Ebershoff, who in The Danish Girl: A Novel, offers cinematic descriptions and apt metaphors without overwriting:

"Lota had begun to supervise the dynamiting after the first fellow miscalculated a blast and showered them all with granite, rocks small and large raining down on their lunch, like a tea party in Pompeii". (p.135)

"The mornings were blue, pure, cool. Rio in winter.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Gallant on August 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
A beautiful and engrossing book that is both charming and gripping. The characters are well fleshed out and the descriptive passages are transporting. The story alternates between various voices, giving a full and satisfying picture of the character's emotional lives and their interactions with each other. This book fully satisfied my love of beautiful writing with an engaging story and fully-developed complicated characters. I never read books more than once, but I'm glad I bought this book as I will certainly read it again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gigi on August 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book incorporates many of my favorite themes:

Turbulent political history
Fascinating and brilliant, yet deeply troubled women
Dysfunctional relationship arcs

The More I Owe You is artfully structured and communicated through beautiful, transporting prose.
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Michael Sledge has written a fictional account of the relationship between the great poet Elizabeth Bishop and her long time companion Lota Soares, an acclaimed Brazilian architect. It is beautifully written. Sledge acknowledges that he uses quotes from Bishop throughout. He effectively imagines the intense interior lives of these women, drawn to one another almost tragically. If you are a fan of Bishop, renowned as perhaps the greatest of 20th century poets, you may find this examination of her life in Brazil during the 1950's a fascinating read, well worth your time.
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This is a tale of two people who passionately loved each other but just could not break up or be happy together. I was very moved by the story, which I'd never heard, and felt regret for all those whose self-imposed barriers short-circuit their lives.
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