Tuesday, February 17, 2015

sitting with confessions of a dispossessed memoirist who can’t do fiction

Jeffrey interviews Alexandra—long gone from where she grew up in white Rhodesia, but feeling in America like an alien—about her new memoir.


A: And my agent...she said, you may have a minuscule bit of talent, but you have got no story, and so you’re on your own with fiction.

I perked up:

G: I know that feeling—though I don’t have an agent.

She ignored me.

A: And I thought, no, wait, I do have a story.

J: You have got a story.

A: Yes, I have got a story.

G: I do, too.

But Jeffrey, too, wasn’t interested in me. Right: She’s pretty. You impersonate her desire to do memoir, but the conceptualist is on his own?

J:...because you’re sort of telling your life story in all these memoirs. Right? Why?

G: Well, yeah, but see—

A: Well, you know, I wanted to be a writer. That was just it. Right? So I think you either have that compulsion or you don’t.

G: Right, I do have the compulsion, but—

A: And it’s — for me, it’s like breathing. I mean, I want to make words out of life. That’s bigger than me. That’s as big a creative force as—bigger than, for me, even having children....This is a deliberate and very enormous feeling in me.

G: Yeah, I wanted a daughter, but I had to get somewhere first where it felt time and with someone I truly wanted to parent with. When I had the chance, it wasn’t the time, then when I felt the time, it wasn’t yet for her, and we went separate ways before it was time for her. But I loved her with all my heart and loved again, but she died. Then again, but she was already married.

J: There’s the quote from your father here that says, “The problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live.”

G: I know how to live! You two keep ignoring me. I’m filled, elated, flying with ideas.

A: ...you know, live your own life. That’s it. And you will know it’s your own life because it’s lonely and it’s frightening. And there’s — when you look back, there will be only one set of footprints, and they’re yours.

G: Yet we’re still alive! We don’t cease exploring, the heights are so thrilling, like for example—

A: I think that’s what I do, right? I write and I read, and I write and read my way into and out of ideas and life. And that’s what we do. That’s what storytellers do.

G: O, yes, Ana!

J: Alexandra—

G: Whoops.

J: —Fuller. Her new memoir is Leaving Before the Rains Come.

G: Wait, I’ll tell you why I left my youth in Kentucky on the road to California!

J: For PBS News Hour, thank you.

G: How I turned dramatic transgressions to creative ends?

A: Thank you.