No. I understand. In many ways Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenedies, and Augusten Burroughs are authors who have become synonymous with dysfunctional domestic life. Who are some of your favorite women authors who deal with similar subjects?
There are so many great women authors out there! We all write about family, it is almost impossible not to. It’s tricky. Every family in literature is dysfunctional—and in reality too. I don’t think in that way. When I was writing this book, The Corrections was an influence on me, and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was as well. I think that book is perfect.

I have been compared to Franzen. One reviewer called me the female Franzen. But when I read The Corrections, I didn’t think I need to go out and write a woman’s take on this. If anything, my book was the Jewish Corrections. Instead of a bunch of suburban WASPs. I didn’t think I needed to learn to write about families—I have one.

How do you feel about the writing community in Brooklyn?
This is sort of where people come to do work. I’m more about a community of people who loves books. I work in a bookstore [Word in Greenpoint]. If you go to readings, you run into people who are involved in the book world or marketing or publishing—there are a lot of people in Brooklyn that way. But my circle is pretty small. But no, it isn’t an ideal place—it’s expensive. It’s good to be here half the year. I’m a wandering soul.

No more boxes, thanks.
Michael Sharkey
No more boxes, thanks.

Details

The Middlesteins
By Jami Attenberg
Grand Central Publishing, 288 pp., $24.99

Brooklyn Launch Party
Thursday, October 25
Word Brooklyn 7 p.m.

Manhattan Launch Party
Jami Attenberg and Friends
Thursday, November 1
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe 7 p.m.

The bio on your page says you believe in publishing independently and that you love writing about technology, but you also said, "I have five sites, please don’t ask me to have a sixth." Can you talk about the pressures to self-promote and to be fully branded (i.e., Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) as part of getting published?
I’ve had a blog since 1998, so I was one of the original bad idea people. But it turned out to be a good idea. I really found my voice online. I have things that I like more than others. I just started doing Tumblr early this year and I kinda love it more than Twitter, sometimes, probably because there's the visual component. I’m definitely more amped up now, but I’m looking forward to not having to do it as much. I think you should only do it if you want to do it. The worst thing is when you see someone blogging or tweeting and you can tell it's because their publisher told them to do it, and it is so uncomfortable. They are getting set up to fail. There's a lack of confrontation in this culture right now because of technology.

What do you mean by lack of confrontation because of technology?
Well, this is a very BCC culture, and we don’t really have to deal with things. We also have a different way of sharing things. You can get mad with someone on e-mail and forward that message to someone else to share and it might feel good, but it isn’t dealt with. We live in a “now” culture. It really takes time to become a good writer. When I talk to people about writing, sometimes people don’t know if they can sit down and take a year writing when they get so much gratification out of writing this blog post or whatever they are writing. It’s your own personal thing when you are writing a book, and not everything has to be out there.

But ultimately, readers are smarter than that. Being marketed well and branded well is not enough. It might get them to the book, but there will be no word of mouth. I would much rather market my book than myself. I’m just a writer. I really want the conversation to be about this book. I’m not really an interesting person. I know what my reality is. I wake up, work for eight hours, go for a bike ride, spend times with my friends. So when people ask me about childhood obesity, I’m kinda like, what the fuck do I know?

So what’s next for you?
Well, my next work is a historical novel. It’s about this woman—she’s from the second essay in the book Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. This woman, Mazy Phillips, she ran this movie theater on the Bowery from the '20s through the '40s. She was kind of this bawdy broad, boozy. She was described as a hazy version of Mae West and she cursed a lot and sometimes she was a little violent. She worked from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and when she got off work, she would walk the Bowery and help the homeless men. And I read this essay and I just became really fascinated with her because she’s such a flawed person but also so extremely compassionate and complex. There is just enough information in this essay that I thought, there is so much more to this story that I want to know, that I can research, I can make up. Which is what I’m doing.

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1 comments
IAlsoWrite
IAlsoWrite

This writer has interesting things to say, and she need not be so apologetic. You do not sound pretentious. You do NOT sound bitchy. Congrats on your success.

 
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