Susan Daitch Critical Essays

Introduction

Susan Daitch 1954–

American novelist and short story writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Daitch's career through 1996.

Until the late 1970s, Susan Daitch worked as a painter producing what she calls "narrative drawings." Her artistic background has come into play in her writing by providing her with a visual basis for her work. The translation from a visual to written format has intrigued Daitch and led her to inspect how meaning changes with translation—a recurring theme in her writing.

Biographical Information

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Daitch graduated from Barnard College in 1977. She then attended, and later worked for, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art's Independent Study Program. The late '70s marked a turning point in her career as she moved away from art and towards fiction. Her background in art, her work at the Whitney, and her husband's experiences in the Berkeley riots all contributed to her first book, L.C. (1987).

Major Works

Daitch uses history as a springboard for her work because, according to her, it is a "kind of ready-made that can be reinterpreted or misinterpreted, and translated." Her first novel, L.C., is an example of Daitch's re-invention of history: the novel centers on a diary, written by the title character in 1848 France, which is subsequently found, translated and retranslated by two other authors. Dr. Willa Rehnfield first finds and translates the novel in 1968. Rehnfield's translation is affected by her own life and the riots at Berkeley. Likewise, Rehnfield's assistant retranslates the last section of L.C.'s diary to correct Rehnfield's "mistakes," only to add her own biases. Just as L.C. has a book as its central narrative frame, so too does Daitch's second work, The Colorist (1990). The Colorist centers around a comic book entitled Electra. After the comic book folds, Julie, the colorist, and the book's inker, Laura, take it over. Julie's and Electra's lives begin to parallel each other and lead the reader down a path of complex storylines. Kate Lynch calls The Colorist a "literary shell game" with "drop-dead writing." Most recently Daitch has published a collection of short stories entitled Storytown (1996).

Critical Reception

Daitch's works have been variously received as either brilliant or trite. Most critics agree that Daitch has unique descriptive talents and have praised her storytelling abilities; L.C. was recognized as a promising first book from a new postmodern writer. Leslie Rabine calls it "an important first novel … well worth reading for its ingenious interweaving of narrative threads"—a sentiment expressed in the bulk of critical reaction to Daitch's first work. L.C. has, however, been criticized for historical inaccuracies and narrative imbalance. The Colons's reception has followed much the same path. Elizabeth Judd calls it a "breath-taking second novel" and asserts that Daitch has again succeeded in producing a well-told, complex storyline. However, the story's complexity and Daitch's technique of situation-driven writing have resulted in what some critics see as weak characters, though Richard Katrovas says that the narrative imparts "the powerful sense of a woman gazing into the heart of things."