Birth of writer Marisa Silver
As the child of two film directors, Raphael and Joan Micklin Silver, it was only natural for Marisa Silver to follow in the footsteps of her parents. But after finding indie and Hollywood success, her passion for writing took her on quite a different road.
Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio but raised in New York City, Marisa Silver soaked up the city’s unique atmosphere and energy both on her own and through the lenses of her parents’ filmmaking. Silver’s mother directed the films Hester Street and Crossing Delancey, which featured the locales of New York’s Lower East Side. Her father produced both films and directed A Walk on the Moon.
Marisa Silver’s very first film, Old Enough, created while she was a student at Harvard, followed two impudent and rebellious teenagers finding their way in the streets of New York. It won the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1984. Silver followed this success with Permanent Record with Keanu Reeves, Vital Signs with Diane Lane and Jimmy Smits, and He Said, She Said with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins.
As Silver recalls this point in her life, “I felt very strongly that the stories I was telling weren’t the stories I wanted to tell, that what interested me—human behavior, the nuance of character, the life that exists in shadows and moments—was not, for the most part, the stuff of film. I knew I wanted to tell stories but I had a very profound realization that I was working in the wrong medium.” She decided to attend a graduate program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She had her first short story, “The Passenger,” published in The New Yorker in 2000. Her first short story collection, Babe in Paradise, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year in 2001. She has since published three novels: No Direction Home (2005), The God of War (2008), and Mary Coin (2013). Her second collection of stories, Alone With You, was published in 2010.
Discussing her writing process, Silver says, “I move through stories very intuitively. I rely very much on my associative imagination, the part of my mind that combines seemingly disparate feelings or ideas. I write like a collagist might work. I piece together random things and try to find their underlying joins. I don’t assert meaning or purpose. I let all that emerge. Sometimes I’m hardly aware of meaning. I think it’s probably better for me not to be so that my stories can be surprising and so that they can get into the eddies of human emotion in diverting and unexpected ways.”
Sources: “Marisa Silver,” Pif Magazine; “Marisa Silver,” Beatrice Magazine; Marisa Silver.com; and Bruce Fine.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Birth of writer Marisa Silver." (Viewed on June 9, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/23/1960/birth-of-writer-marisa-silver>.