Sep 24, 2019

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We have so many inherited metaphors about love, relating, and intimacy, that even the thought of new narratives about them makes us uncomfortable. Well, good. Let's be uncomfortable. To that end, I spoke with writer and literary & digital theorist Joanna Walsh, whose work explores the contours (and corners and failed uploads)( of love and intimacy, and relationships. 

When I read Joanna's book of stories Vertigo, a few years back, I knew I wanted to talk with her. Joanna's fiction has an intense and even at times relentless quality of repetition, of observation. It's the sort of fiction that gives you the sense that you are not just engaged with the efforts of a great writer, but a great thinker too. The conversation is, as usual, wide-ranging, but we stay close to the idea of how we relate to one another and why our old ideas of relating are not enough to describe our experiences.

Talking with Joanna is a dizzying experience because she is so brilliant, so learned, and able to articulate so many profound truths in clear, concise language. I'm honored to have gotten the chance to spend time with her. Three good places to start: her book of short stories,  (which she reads from), her novel, Break.up: A Novel In Essays, and her book of pornographic fairy tales Grow A Pair

We discuss

  • How intimacy is formed
  • How the I is composed by others
  • Tension in fairy tales
  • Why we have sex to masturbate
  • Theorists with bad ethics
  • Experimental writing as a way of relating
  • "Emotional logic problems"
  • Living in tension
  • The emotions women are "supposed" to feel in their assigned roles
  • The occult bodies and technological intervention
  • What the internet gives, what the internet takes away
  • Watching porn in clips instead of a whole movie
  • Who we are in our normal lives (and how that contains our creative and erotic life)

And in addition to the conversation, Joanna also reads her entrancing story, "Vagues"!


• For more on Joanna, here's her website. Also, read her shifting, growing novel on your phone, Seed;  here's her essay, "Book Lovers: Literary Necrophilia in the 21st Century", and a conversation between her and author Lauren Elkin; and here's a good, brief article about Joanna in The Irish Times.

• Joanna paraphrases French feminist philosopher Luce Irigary early on. Here's a good overview of Irigary's work.

• If you want to check out Kathy Acker, a good place to start is with her novel, Empire of the Senseless.

• If you can stand it, read Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's wonderful and intense anthropology book, Cannibal Metaphysics.

• Read Henri Bergson's essay on humor, "Laughter," here.

Alenka Zupančič's brilliant book, What Is Sex? is one of the only recent books about sex that has absolutely blown my mind.

• I'm so glad Joanna reminded me to look back into Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's work when she told me she was reading A Dialogue On Love. And she follows that up by talking about Chris Kraus's (of I Love Dick fame) book, Torpor.

• For a briefing on the Avital Ronnell scandal, here's an essay by  Andrea Long Chu. I also talk about it a little on AEWCH 47 with Todd McGowan.

• I highly recommend reading Donald Barthelme's (pictured below) story, "Chablis", which you can do for free here. Here are the opening lines:

My wife wants a dog. She already has a baby. The baby's almost two. My wife says that the baby wants the dog. This may be true. The baby is very close to my wife. They go around together all the time, clutching each other tightly. I ask the baby, who is a girl, "Whose girl are you? Are you Daddy's girl?" The baby says "Momma," & she doesn't just say it once, she says it repeatedly. I don't see why I should buy a hundred-dollar dog for that damn baby.

• If you'd like to read "Vagues" along with Joanna, here's an online version of it.

• Um, here's David Lynch cooking quinoa.

• Here's my essay about cruising, "Rest Stop Confidential".

Until next time!

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