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Oct 28, 2010; kady Asks:

discuss the usage of metaphor in Eva Sallis' novel The Marsh Birds

Stacey answers:

In Eva Sallis' novel The Marsh Birds, metaphor is used as it is in every novel, which is to say that since everything is made up, everything is a metaphor: every image, every detail, every character. The house is not a house. The character is not a person. It's like a dream: everything is spun from the mind of the dreamer--or if you're a Jungian, you might say everything is spun from the collective experience of mankind. That's what literature is, a narrative made up of metaphors. I haven't read The Marsh Birds, but I'm pretty sure this applies.

Now go do your homework.

Oct 27, 2010; 30-year-old latchkey kid Asks:

How am I supposed to feel about my aging parents getting divorced? One day, out of the clear blue sky, after 30 years of a good, loving marriage to the greatest guy I know, never any fighting or stuff like that, my mom gets botox, starts playing second life all the time, and decides she resents my father for a million things she never once brought up and leaves him. She's 60. Can you tell me, what was she thinking? Can this happen to anyone? How can you trust anyone? Is it reasonable for me to believe in lasting love from this point forward? Do women just go mad after menopause? Is this sort of condition preventable? How do I help them?

Stacey answers:

Latchkey, you're killing me! I'm going to dive into the the most heartbreaking part. Q:“How can you trust anyone? ” A: You can't. Q. “Is it reasonable for me to believe in lasting love from this point forward?” A. No. Q.“Can this happen to anyone?” A: Yes. Q: “Is this sort of condition preventable?” No! No! Latchkey! Your parents skipped an important parenting step, the part where they systematically disappoint and disillusion you for years with escalating intensity, in order to indoctrinate you into the existential truth of the human condition. This usually starts with things like giving you cake when you wanted ice cream and outing Santa Claus, moving on to fighting behind closed doors while you beg for them to stop, criticizing each other at the dinner table and calling you a stupid idiot when you try to do math, culminating in social anxiety by proxy in high school, when they should have been dishing out hurtful comments about your physical appearance and sexual orientation, and, if everything was on schedule, begun making inappropriate revelations about their personal lives.

I'm sorry that they failed you in this way! Though I guess it was sweet of them to want to protect you from all the bad stuff. They tried really hard too, since you've been able to see them in a warm light for thirty years, and that makes me think they must love you very much. But now you're thirty, the planet's dying, so let's unscrew those warm incandescent bulbs and look at this under the glare of compact fluorescence. Relationships involve fighting. It's extremely difficult to get along with another person for years—fully, in an alive way—without disagreements. You were missing something, and your parents probably helped you miss it. But it was there. If you're truly convinced there was no fighting, I'd guess that one of two things was going on: 1) your parents, out of love for you, managed to shield you from their fights, or 2) one of your parents accommodated the other so skillfully that most fighting was avoided.

It's usually the woman who does the accommodating. This involves a certain amount of self-effacement, which almost causes resentment. Which leads me to your next question: "What was she thinking?" A: It's three things, probably a little of each: resentment, sexuality, mortality.

Resentment: your mom gave too much and got sick of it. Women tend to hold families together emotionally, even when the dads are great guys (and great dads aren't the same as great husbands). Sometimes the kids don't see it, and you've had the incandescent lights on, softly dimmed, for a while. But sometimes women sacrifice parts of themselves until they just can't do it anymore. They just can't. They feel emptied out.

Sexuality: I'm sure you don't want the details, so I'll spare you speculations. But it's entirely possible that your parents have a bad sex life. I know it probably doesn't seem like it, but old people are just like young ones, full of roiling emotions and longings. These may not be quite as urgent as they once were, but they're still a major engine driving human history, even the history of sixty year-old moms.

Mortality: Your mother turned sixty and realized that she's going to die, die, really die—full of resentment, with a shitty sex life, giving up parts of herself to her family—and she didn't want to go on living that way until she just died.

She wants a second life. That's the clearest answer of all—the one you gave yourself. But really, of course, I don't know what she's thinking. Why don't you ask her?

As for what you should do to help them, the best thing you can do is to try to stay on good terms with both of them, without taking sides. It's impossible to know what really goes on in another couple's relationship. I know you feel angry and betrayed, and I don't blame you, but I'm sure your mother had a good reason for leaving your dad. She's been so nice for so long—how could it not be a good reason? It just might be a grown-up human reason, a soul-based reason, a sexual reason—and it's going to be hard for you to see this in her, given that they've kept this side of themselves away from you for so long. But if you really want to see, you can see. You can brighten the lights and look.

Oct 21, 2010; Liam Asks:

Recently, I've been reading your movie reviews from the 90's. In the review for "The Truman Show," you dropped some Lacanian lit-theory on our asses. This invites the questions, "What are your thoughts on literary theory, in general?" "Has your view on it changed over time?" "Has it affected/informed/enhanced/etc. your work? How so?"

I hope this online query finds you well. :)

By the way, when you dropped that Lacan on us, I was all like "Awwwww sheeeeeeeeut, son! S-Ricky is FIRE!"

You don't even know, grrrl!

Stacey answers:

Hi Liam. Thanks for reading my film reviews! You're nice, especially since I had to write some of them so quickly that I was pulling a lot of crap out of, I don't know, my ass? I have mixed feelings about literary theory in general. At its best, it's smart and fun. I like ideas, and I like ideas about ideas. I like thought, and I like thoughts about thought. But I don't think it has much to do with literature. Rather, it is its own thing, with its own system of thought, and while it has plenty of merits, I'm not sure it needs literature to exist. Which is fine, I guess, but I don't know why literary theory needs English departments.

But I also kind of hate literary theory because most of it is written in a style that's absolutely impossible to read. I know that complicated thoughts can be expressed clearly and without jargon, without nouns turned into verbs and "to be sure's" and paragraphs that have their point buried in a subordinate clause. That smart people have collectively abandoned clarity enrages me. That this kind of writing has become customary in academic circles enrages me. What kind of person writes, say Marxist criticism that condemns elitism, in an elite dialect that can only be understood by other academics? It's retarded. Plus no one else has access to their ideas, unless they wish to be tortured by language. They're like priests saying the mass in Latin. It has a kind of aura. But only other priests can really get it.

Oct 04, 2010; Maddy Asks:

What literary type magazines do you like? I know you list a few, but what others?

Stacey answers:

Hi Maddy, I haven't forgotten you...I just want to do a little research to give you a better list. I'm not the greatest person to ask about literary magazines because I don't teach, and therefore I'm not as dialed in to all the great new stuff. I like Willow Springs, Fairy Tale Review, The Mississippi Review, Tin House, Zoetrope, and The Sonora Review, but I'll bet there are other great journals I don't know about. I'm going to ask a friend who's up on it and try to e x p a n d.

Sep 23, 2010; Wag Asks:

Excuse me but WE ask the questions around here! I helped make the video, but a guy named Derek from Oklahoma did the shooting/editing, etc. Drugs? That's not really the point. There will be no rave dancing! This is more a worlds fair type thing (at least that's the intention...

Sep 22, 2010; Miranda Asks:

Hi Stacey. You are the best author I have come across in a long time by far. I LOVE your books. Do you have plans to write any more anytime soon? If not, what authors do you like and would recommend to someone who likes your style of writing?

Stacey answers:

Thanks, Miranda. I'm writing a novel now but it probably won't be out for a while.

As for my style of writing, it's sort of weird how I don't even know exactly what it is--I think it's like having an accent, it's hard to recognize your own. But off the top of my head, some great writers who write funny-strange short stories are Kelly Link, Amy Bender, George Saunders, and Karen Russell. But there are so many more!

Sep 15, 2010; Wag Asks:

Hi Stacey! Do you remember a question I asked a while back, filled with worry about the state of the country and how little stock people put in things like science? Well, I've found a project I'm helping out with called "Re Evolution". I'm working in the Production/Logistics department and I couldn't be happier! You should check out our Kickstarter page! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/732325194/re-evolution What do you think of it?

Stacey answers:

Cool! I love robots on fire. Did you make that great film?

I sincerely hope you're planning to have a bowl of drugs by the entrance door.

Sep 09, 2010; Incog-Nikita Asks:

Hi Stacey, Could you talk a little bit about finding an agent? I think the story is that one found you (you told me this years ago, in some other context) but in general, how does that go about happening?

Stacey answers:

Yes, I got a letter from my agent, so she basically found me. It was weirdly easy. Honestly Incog, I have no idea how to go about finding an agent. But since I have male answer syndrome, I'll throw out some suggestions. You could ask someone who teaches in an MFA program--they probably know what some of their students did. You could ask our oracle, Google. You could call an agent's office, be nice to their assistant, and ask how a person goes about finding an agent. You could go to the library and see what kind of info you find there.

Sep 04, 2010; Someone who totally isn't Stacey. Nope. Not at all. Asks:

Which currently-alive/-relevant (so, Abe Vigoda doesn't count) celebrities do you have the biggest crush on? Pick at least 1 from each sex, please.

Explain you answer.

Be specific.

Your loving interrogator,
Someone who is NOT you

P...S... This also isn't Liam. No way.

Stacey answers:

Okay. Boys: Tom Hardy, because he's got all that sexy charisma. Clive Owen, because he loves me, I'm pretty sure. Sacha Baron Cohen, because I'm just so right for him. Tiger Woods, because he sounds like fun and I want to have Ambien sex.

Girls: Britney Spears, because it's fun to have sex with crazy people and I love her weird wide-eyed face. And Megan Fox: no explanation required.

Aug 21, 2010; littleshirlybeans Asks:

Dear Stacey, I want to send you pictures of our vacation together aka "Our Date With Stacey Richter" (the one to Tucson involving David Sedaris), can I send them to the email address that's here on this site? I promise they are not creepy and I am not creepy. I just don't want to post the link for all to see. I sort of took your advice about the derby name. My name is...Malice in Derbyland!!! Thanks for your help. Finally, how do you suggest I deal with violence in my writing. Most of my ideas for stories have been violent lately and this is a new development. I started one recently and it just became more and more violent with every word and it kind of scares me. Suggestions? Lots of love from New Mexico! Littleshirlybeans

Stacey answers:

Hi Littleshirly, Yes, just send them to Stacey@staceyrichter.com. I'm excited! If I don't get them I'll post further instructions here. I love Malice in Derbyland--you gals sounds scary and cute.

Try not to be too disoriented when violence pops up in your writing. Go with it if you can. Violence is a form of conflict and conflict is what makes fiction chug forward. Though it may make you feel like a freak, remember that everyone has violent thoughts and fantasies. Nuns, ballerinas, woodworkers, veterinarians--they all carry around images of stabbing their mothers and strangling the UPS man and removing other people's heads. But sometimes these thoughts are beneath the surface, since civilization requires a certain amount of repression so we can function as social creatures. Women, especially, are taught to do some nice repression in this area, which is why we're disturbed when the violence shoots to the surface like a balloon we were holding underwater and forgot about. Oh no, what's that? It's violence! What does it mean? It means you're a normal person! It doesn't mean you're depraved or unnice or a budding sociopath. But it might mean you're angry. That can be scary, yes. Things that inspire anger are usually things that hurt you, with anger forming a scab around the wound that starts to bleed if you pick at it. No one likes doing this. But the weird thing is that no one likes not doing it either. Sometimes you have to pick at the violent-angry-pain scab. It’s part of making art. Which is another reason why making art is not exactly pleasant.

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