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Weddings & Funerals

Author’s note on Weddings and Funerals.

I grew up in a family of 12 children, so it’s natural that I’d write a novel about a large family. I began the first draft of the story in a creative writing class at Harvard, led by the poet and translator Robert Fitzgerald. The Bitto family had its problems, but we were actually very happy. To create conflict for the story, I tried to imagine the worst thing that could happen to the family, and I decided that the mother’s death at the age of 43 would be the central problem of the story.

More than 20 years later, when I decided to re-write and revise the novel, my wife Connie suggested that the situation would be more believable if the sibling who comes home from college to take care of the younger brothers and sisters was a young woman instead of a young man, as in my original version. So Catherine joined the cast of characters.

In writing the book, I thought it would be hard for readers to keep track of 12 children (as in my real family) so I reduced the number to 10.

One of my brothers refused to read the book beyond the death of the mother, Irene. He accused me of killing our mom. Mary Bitto actually lived a long life. She died in 2008 at the age of 77.

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