Emma seen shopping at Bristol Farms today (August 31) in West Hollywood, CA. See HQ photos below! Emma and Karah, her friend/co-founder of Belletrist, interviewed Melissa Febos, author of “Abandon Me“. Below Emma reads an excerpt from the book and you can read an excerpt of the interview; to read full interview sign up for the newsletter here.
EMMA: I was wondering how you started writing the book and when did you choose to call it “Memoirs” instead of “A Memoir”?
MELISSA: The book is almost exactly the way that I particularly made it. They didn’t change anything. When I started writing it, I had a sense that it was not going to be a regular memoir or a regular essay collection. I thought okay, for the first time in my life, I’m going to try to be patient. I’m going to finish this entirely because I have a feeling it’s going to be good. If I try to describe it, it’s going to sound like an enormous mess.
EMMA: Yeah, I went into it having read nothing about it.
MELISSA: The best way to read a book.
EMMA: Stephanie [Danler] telling me to read it, was the best way, ’cause I think if anyone had tried to describe it to me, I would have been like “what?” I liked going into it blind.
MELISSA: That is my ideal way for people to read things. As for the “Memoirs”, I actually wanted to have nothing on it. And for a little while, it seemed like I might get away with that but people don’t know where to shelve things that are nonfiction. So we have to put something on it. I was like okay, but essays seemed to suggest that they might be less connected than they actually are.
EMMA: They’re very connected.
MELISSA: And a memoir would have also been misleading…
KARAH: Em and I were talking yesterday. There’s a line in your book where you say “the ocean disappears things.” We were interested in what you meant by that. What does it mean to “disappear things”? Why did you choose that language as opposed to “swallow” or something like that?
MELISSA: I think that particular line is from “Call My Name,” which is very much about limits and also the experience of having people disappear. I think this has to do with the experience of being a child and not being able to comprehend what it means when someone is gone, or understanding the emotional intricacies of why people go or stay or disappear. This connection that I made between the ocean or infinite things and people I love disappearing. I was a control freakish child. I wanted to be in charge of things, I wanted to be my own higher power. Infinite things scared me, and they still do. I feel frozen and I want of sort of curl into a ball, but give me a container and say fill this in a particular way, and I’ll just get to work. Still, even when it comes to writing craft and form, I prefer constriction; it’s part of why I like nonfiction. Writing fiction, is much harder for me.
EMMA: I loved in that part of the story when you say, “I like the pool because it has sides”, because I feel my safest place is in the bathtub. The bathtub is my happy place.
MELISSA: I think with non-fiction or writing personal essays, you have this finite amount of material, which is what happens in your thoughts. You have to find a way to make that work so that it’s worth other people’s time and maybe so that it adheres to a certain kind of form. Even as a kid, if teachers or whomever were like, “Go ahead, do anything, here’s a crayon”, I’d be like “aaaah, give me an assignment”.
EMMA: Give me a theme!
KARAH: I always wonder with nonfiction writers, or people who write memoirs, specifically – how do you decide what people are going to want to read? Or do you not care?
MELISSA: I have found that the things that feel most urgent and terrifying to me are also those which most interest other people. I think we’re all terrified of uncertainty. We’re all scared of taking risks and so it’s really compelling to watch somebody else take a risk that you yourself are drawn to or scared by.
EMMA: You talk about how you change the spelling of your name. I feel like when we’re kids we all kind of do that–
EMMA: … I mean I started spelling my name E-M-M-A-H because everyone’s name was H-A-N-N-A-H
KARAH: Well I’m K-A-R-A-H for real.
EMMA: I remember feeling so in control of my seven or eight-year-old life–Emma with the H–and being like “I’m spelling my name like this.” I loved how you broke down your thought process of spelling your name to better represent yourself.
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