Image: “Deirdre in Rita’s Living Room,” by Leanne Shapton, 2008.
Sinkhole Editors: How did you begin writing “Grocery Shopping with Mary McCarthy”?
SE: Are you reading anything good right now?
RB: I just finished Eileen Myles’ memoir, Chelsea Girls, and Wayne Koestenbaum’s biography of Andy Warhol. Right now, I’m readingBlood and Guts in High School by Cathy Acker and Get Happy, a biography of the object of my obsession, Judy Garland.
SE: What has your experience with writing at Wesleyan been like and how has it shaped your writing? (Classes you’ve taken, professors you’ve worked with, Stethoscope or other publications, etc.)
RB: It definitely took me a while to get immersed in Wesleyan’s writing scene, which intimidated me during my freshman year. I’m so glad I stuck with it and kept working on my writing because being part of writing at Wesleyan has been incredibly gratifying. I was hell-bent on being a fiction writer until I ended up in Cliff Chase’s Techniques of Nonfiction class during my sophomore year and realized my voice was better suited to creative nonfiction. He, along with professors like Lisa Cohen and my thesis advisor Erica Hunt, pushed me to take risks and become a generally more unconventional writer. Last year, I wrote a memoir for Stethoscope Press called Oh Lord Prepare Me. The book was deeply personal (not to mention deeply weird), but people seemed to connect to it, and it was really gratifying to see it reach such a wide range of people. I edited Steth this year and continue to be amazed by the talent of the writing community at Wesleyan. It’s one of the aspects of school I’ve missed the most since graduating.
SE: Are you working on anything right now–writing or otherwise?
RB: I recently finished my thesis, a creative nonfiction project called Holocaust Girls that explores women’s relationships to Holocaust jokes through cultural figures like Sarah Silverman and Joan Rivers and through anecdotes about my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I’m not writing anything right now, but I am working as an editorial assistant at Harper’s Magazine.
SE: Is there a main message you want readers to get from “Grocery Shopping”?
RB: Anchovies are an under-appreciated delight. Also, it doesn’t matter what things mean. Just write about things that you like.
This interview was conducted over email by Liz Cettina and Emma Raddatz. Rebecca Brill is a graduating member of the Wesleyan Class of 2016. Read her essay, “Grocery Shopping with Mary McCarthy,” here.