Blume says her current book tour will be her last.
is my farewell," the 77-year-old author
acknowledged recently over the phone from her part-time
home in New York City. "Not in any bad sense of the
word. Iíve just decided it really is."
finds Blume promoting her latest novel, "In the
Unlikely Event" (Alfred A. Knopf; 416 pages,
$27.95), which is one of only four books she has written
for adults. Her name has long been synonymous with young
adult fiction, although she doesnít consider herself a
YA novelist. She dislikes categories, saying only that
there was no such classification when she wrote her most
iconic books for teens, including 1970ís "Are You
There God? Itís Me, Margaret" and 1975ís
"In the Unlikely Event" also features a
largely adolescent cast of characters. Blume doesnít
know why, although she admits she is most comfortable
using teenage voices in fiction. The protagonist of
"In the Unlikely Event" is a 15-year-old girl
named Miri who lives through a terrifying three-month
period during which three passenger planes crash in her
hometown of Elizabeth, N.J., each time narrowly avoiding
some sort of school or orphanage.
far-fetched as it may sound, similar events really
happened in late 1951 and early 1952. Blume was in
eighth grade, and the kids at her school were full of
conspiracy theories. Could it be zombies, aliens, even
remembers where she was when she heard about the first
crash. It was a Sunday afternoon, and she was in the car
with her mother and her friend Zelda.
mother liked to go out to a movie and an early
dinner," she says. "We mustíve been
listening to the radio because the program was
a character in the book, Blumeís father was a dentist
called on to identify the victims by their dental
re-creates this unsettling season of fear by examining
the lives of the individuals and families affected by
the accidents. Many characters are based on real people
who died either in the planes or on the ground as well
as on those who mourned their loss. The early 1950s
milieu is as lush as the cashmere sweaters her anxious
teen heroes wear. The Korean War looms, kids hang around
burger joints and soda fountains, and scandalous unions
take place in the back seats of roomy cars.
love to say to my kids, ĎDonít tell me anything
about my memory if I donít know where my keys are,
because I wrote a 400-page book and I kept all of those
characters straight,í" Blume laughs.
the book took five years that the author recalls as
"painful." She spent countless hours poring
over microfiche news accounts. She also talked with as
many old friends as she could about what they
remembered. All those recollections made it into the
Blume, the approach to writing a book for adults is the
same as that for kids.
process isnít any different; itís horrible whatever
you are doing," she says. "The first chapter
is always torture."
remarkably chipper when she talks about the difficulties
of writing, because with every book as complicated as
"In the Unlikely Event," she swears sheíll
never write another one. The truth, though, is that sheíll
most likely find herself back at her desk eventually.
creative juices donít just go away," she says.
has been particularly true for Blume.
a career spanning nearly half a century, she has written
29 books that have sold more than 85 million copies in
32 languages. Women of a certain age ó particularly
those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s ó have
imprinted on Blume the way baby birds might their
mothers. Many first learned vital details about sex and
menstruation from Blumeís books. She is their
childhood best friend and favorite confidant.
readers will recognize key Blume-isms in this new book,
including her uncanny ability to conjure the feeling of
a first kiss, a longed for slow dance at the school gym
and the strange collision of emotions that can accompany
the loss of oneís virginity. Blume writes about such
things with a clear-eyed precision that is neither
precious nor graphic.
had to stop herself from talking, from asking questions
the way she did when she was nervous, because she sensed
this boy didnít want to talk," she writes about
Miriís first dance with her future boyfriend.
"She prayed the palms of her hands wouldnít
sweat, that her deodorant was working, that the faint
scent of her motherís Arpege would reach his nostrils.
His breath was near her ear, making her tingle."
this sounds an awful lot like the Blume legions of
readers have loved over the years, thatís because the
concerns are very much the same. The main difference
between her adult fiction and her fiction for younger
readers is that the former has many more characters than
adults can read this book," she says. "They
have my permission if they want to slog through all
the meantime, Blume says, "Letís hug and cry, but
Iím not going anywhere. Iíll be around. Iíll be
in the "about me" section of her Twitter
account, which has 124,000 followers, she has written,
"Are You There, Twitter? Itís Me, Judy."