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Bookslut editors Jessa Crispin and Charles Blackstone sit down to (drink and) discuss Blackstone's new novel Vintage Attraction, defending romance, and why as a writer you are only as good as the books you are reading.
Anyway, basically Krapp was everything -- white guys, humor, death, sound -- I was mad at or wanted to understand (of course sometimes that’s the same thing). So I figured if I looked closely at this play about a guy in a room, if I cut a Y down its chest, then I would understand it and be a better writer. I could wear that tux. This column is not about Krapp’s Last Tape though, it is about how reading a story ten years ago, and returning to it regularly, how that can shape other stories we hear.
"I think especially now that I work in fiction and nonfiction and in radio, to me the pleasure of telling a good story transcends medium and genre, and the pleasure of consuming a good story -- each different medium has its pleasures. Film is different from a pop song, and a pop song is different from a produced radio documentary versus a novel versus a poem or a short story. But there are lessons you take from each medium and apply to others. These days, I'm less interested in it as a book, or it as a short story, or it as a radio piece, than I am interested in telling it in multiple ways or trying to find the most powerful way to tell a story."
"Most of us don't even know the names of our great-grandparents. That's only a few generations back. Our sense of kinship is very narrow. Once you start thinking about existence in astronomical and geological terms, you can see that the lineage goes far behind the human species. There's a sense of belonging to a larger family, not just your own family. I have a trilobite on my desk. He was there three, four hundred million years ago. We tend to forget them, but they are a part of our world. They are not specifically our forbearers. We are not from the lineage of trilobites, but it doesn't matter. You have many more fathers and mothers and grandfathers than your own."
James Baldwin, when asked if he was compelled to write answered, "Yeah, nobody would do it if they weren't compelled." It's a wonderful answer, and when the interviewer presses him, "Well, then what compels you?" Baldwin says, "Good question, I don't know." I appreciate this second answer even more. If you watch the video of the interview, Baldwin is his usually snappy self in the first reply, but the second answer he gives in a kind of haze, staring off, not sure, a little lost. But it's one of the most honest answers to the question, and one of our greatest thinkers boils it down to "because you have to, it's what you are."
"There's a particular fetishisation of a deep cultural impulse to find the "authentic" truth of a woman's life, particularly after they have taken their own: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf. I was interested in playing with those assumptions and clichéd conceptions about women's writing and that deeply problematic fascination that is more about the reader than the writer. I'm interested in revenge fantasies -- and what better revenge than the manipulative suicide note -- playing off the tension between being the ventriloquizing victim playing aggressor and playing victim in order to be aggressor."
Every year I keep an eye out for special books that I believe will make excellent unexpected gifts for holidays. Readers love a good novel or story collection but there is something to be said for the appeal of innovative nonfiction, especially when it is heavily illustrated. I think the coffee table book is one of the better inventions of the publishing industry and I'm still annoyed that all books, regardless of audience, do not come with pictures. Consider these titles the best of both worlds: visually captivating to the very young while engaging and informative to readers of any age.