Back in February, I linked to my review of friend Natalie Dykstra’s new biography of photographer Clover Adams, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life (Houghton Mifflin, 2012).
Now she has an interview up at the bibliophilic social networking site LibraryThing, conducted by a former colleague of mine (yes, it’s a small world after all), Jeremy Dibbell. In the interview, she talks about what drew her to Clover’s story, the power of her photographs (some of which you can view online at the Massachusetts Historical Society), Clover’s marriage to historian Henry Adams, and the nature of biographical research and writing. As an historian, I particularly enjoyed her response to a question about Clover and Henry’s marriage:
A marriage is always challenging to write about because of its mystery to those outside of it—there are only two people who can know for sure how it works or doesn’t work, and even they might not know. There has been a long-standing debate about the Adamses’ marriage that can be summarized briefly as this: Clover was a troubled woman who stood in Henry’s way or Henry was an uncaring husband who stood in Clover’s way. But this seemed reductive, especially given how very much in love they were. One of the chief difficulties in tracing out a more nuanced story is the fact that Clover and Henry were rarely separated. There’s only one series of letters written by Henry to Clover in the spring of 1885, when she’s in Cambridge tending to her dying father. But there are clues. Clover’s cheery letters to her father in the first years of their marriage and later from London and Paris and Spain in the 1879 and 1880 are very different from the more somber letters she’s writing in 1883. She grumbles more—about the weather, about how she’s feeling, about Washington’s “society rabble,” as she called it. She doesn’t complain about Henry directly, but she mentions him less than in her earlier letters. What had been thrilling early on—proximity to power and conversations at dinner with friends that would last till all hours—became a bit more ho-hum. And the way she photographs Henry, and how she places his images in her albums, is also very revealing of a drift, a growing isolation between them.
You can read the rest of the interview here.