Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Kathryn Harrison


"EVEN AT A YOUNG AGE I LEARNED that truth was a slippery substance," says Kathryn Harrison, 32. "My grandmother claimed that my parents were married by a justice of the peace in downtown Los Angeles, and my mother claimed that she was married at home. But now that no one in my immediate family is living, I've become the sole keeper of my own history. That is both scary and seductive."

An only child born to an unstable 19-year-old mother who was married but briefly, the novelist was raised by her grandparents. "On and off, when my mother thought she was going to get her life together, she would threaten to take me back. And I would pray that she wouldn't be able to," says Harrison. "Ironically, I was the one who ended up taking care of her when she died of cancer at age 43."

In Exposure, Harrison uses photography as a metaphor for life's paradoxes. "I write about how even photography, supposedly the great instrument of truth, can be made to lie," she says. "In the end, the camera is manipulated by the hand as well as the eye."

Even today, Harrison, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband, novelist Colin Harrison (Break & Enter), and their two young children, says she is driven by fear. "After the birth of my second child. I was sitting out on our porch, thinking how everything wonderful in my life could be so easily tripped up and undone, and I burst into tears. My husband came out and asked me what was wrong. And I said, 'But that's just the point, nothing is wrong—yet.' "

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