Gabrielle Bell | Truth Is Fragmentary
So great to see one of my faves, author, and co-owner @emilybooks. Emily Gould stopped to see me at @vainbeautyworld during her visit to Seattle from NYC. We added some layers and shape to her hair as she grows it long… #emilybooks #layeredhaircut 💗 (at VAIN)
If you are live seattle or environs and you need a haircut (or even if like me you are just visiting) YOU NEED TO SEE CARLY.
I definitely tried to write a book that had some wit to it so it wouldn’t just be a horror show. I wouldn’t have been able to write it if I didn’t, much less ask people to read it. But the humor is reserved directed toward the police, or the do-gooding women who remind me of people out of the 1800s. The criticism of the book has mostly been from people trying to qualify my right to tell this story on that trajectory. It’s not a story of abject victimhood, and it’s not my funny-wacky-time-as-a-sex-worker story. That was the most radical thing I could think of to do: to make it ordinary. — Emily Books: “The most radical thing I could think of to do was to make it ordinary”: Tyler Coates Interviews Melissa Gira Grant
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I don’t know. I mean maybe there’s just more food in my books than in other people’s novels? — Home No. 5: Chain letter
Kathleen Hale tagged me in this chain letter thing and I love Kathleen’s writing and can’t wait to read No One Else Can Have You so I did it.
Today is my one full day at home between trips so I am trying to do a lot of baseline life maintenance stuff, like laundry and cleaning and moving files around on my computer and trying to get health insurance. In order to try and sell the film/TV rights to Friendship I’m supposed to put together a little proposal about how I would like the putative TV show to be, which would probably take 30 minutes if I could just make myself sit down and do it. I am still trying to be ambitious about my recently published book even though most people are on vacation. It’s hard to stay enthusiastic about promoting your book, even if you like your book and some other people do too. There’s a sense that nothing you do will ever be enough and that there’s something crucial you’re forgetting at all times. I’m also meeting with Ruth about Emily Books's August, September and November titles later in the day. I was going to also try to get my armpits waxed but now that seems like a foolish dream.
Oh, you mean like “have I started another novel yet?” Lol.
Limiting books by enforcing strictly defined “genres” and having books compete with other books in that “genre” is silly and book marketing is flawed in general. But instead of going into that here I will limit myself to pointing out that in his recent episode of KCRW’s Bookworm podcast, Edward St. Aubyn said the word “genre” and it gave me goosebumps. He said it like this: “sshhhanrrrr(whisper of “uh”).” I can’t even express how well he said it. I would like a .wav file of Edward St. Aubyn saying genre as a ringtone or something to fall asleep to at night.
I can’t write anything else. If I could write GRRM-style epics that take place in an Otherworld I would totally be doing that, trust.
I don’t write anything for a long time and I feel guilty and bad. Then I write some. Then (repeat).
I like to write in a library because just having a lot of other books around is inspiring. I also like to have deadlines for a lot of other things and to feel a certain amount of financial pressure. Well, I don’t “like” it but I seem to need it. Ugh, will someone switch brains with me?
That was fun! I miss my therapist. The next person I’m tagging for this thing is Jami Attenberg. Jami, I hope you don’t mind!
I spent the weekend with my parents in suburban MD in advance of the DC Politics and Prose reading tonight, and I made Ruth come too though she had to go back to NY today for work. We had a fun weekend exploring DC’s cultural riches. Jk, we didn’t, instead we ate excellent free food, drank a lot of ice water with crushed ice made by the door of the refrigerator (luxury), did laundry (more luxury), and made my parents buy an Apple TV then downloaded half a season of Orphan Black to it. It’s been amazing and part of me will be sad to go home and confront the reality that I am 32, not 15.
My parents live in a high-rise apartment building. People interact more in elevators here than they do in New York, and also just in general. To be perfectly honest I’m against this, but I’m sure if I lived here I’d get used to it and grow to like it. Coming home on Saturday night from a dinner of delicious sushi, we boarded the elevator with a nicely dressed older couple, a man and a woman. I got on before them so I only saw them from the back. Ruth and I were continuing a conversation we’d been having in the car about Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. I’d started playing it again earlier that day taking a hiatus after I outed myself for having actually spent money on it. I got Ruth to start playing it too because I’m a bad influence and an enabler. I was saying something possibly incoherent about how “being famous for being famous” is not inherently a bad thing and I don’t remember the next part clearly but the nicely dressed older woman said something, unprompted, about Kim and the other Kardashians. Like, that they were “disgusting” or “shameful” or “a shame.”
We were all like “ha ha, okay, good night!” and got off the elevator and everyone else forgot about it immediately but I (obviously) did not and I still feel somewhat enraged.
Leaving aside everything to do with the specifics of Kim Kardashian, The Kardashians, the game, etc, there’s a thing that woman was doing that I have seen happen over and over again and I’ve never known quite what to call it. It’s when there’s a received idea about someone or something, usually a woman or a woman-specific cultural phenomenon, and that received idea is so pervasive and somehow so convincing that most people adopt it as their own opinion without ever stopping to examine either the idea or the person or phenomenon for themselves. In this case the received idea is something along the lines of “The success of Kim and the Kardashians is representative of something very bad and I am against it.” Conveniently, holding this kind of opinion doesn’t conflict with being interested in the woman/phenomenon in question and in consuming media related to her, or even created by her. (“Ugh, it was so horrible. I watched every episode/read the whole thing in a day.”)
Whenever a lot of people think a woman is disgusting or shameful and for some reason feel incentivized to espouse that opinion loudly, something interesting is going on. What I realized in the elevator is that I’m on the side of every girl who people jump to conclusions about. I always want to know more about what’s going on with that girl, because the elevator people are boring and wrong. And really, they are missing out on a lot of fun stuff.
When before Broder’s poems were whimsically manic and surreal, now their dreaminess holds a nightmarish scalpel. She confronts death and the spectre of an aging self in the context of a culture that more than ever worships youth and commercial extravagance, in spite of heinous economic disparity and an aging population. Though the concerns are contemporary the objects of the poem are more like what you’d expect from a druid sorceress. —
Emily Books: The Binging And Purging of Melissa Broder
Get your Scarecrone today!
All I can tell you is that it’s very easy to hate everything, but life becomes much more enjoyable when you approach it with an open heart and mind. You don’t have to like everything and everyone, but let people love the small things they love. They mean you no harm. — In Case Of Actual Death: Response to Bustle’s 31 Questions About Kim Kardashian Hollywood
IMPORTANT PSA ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE PASTA
Quinoa pasta is bullshit. Corn/rice pasta is less bullshit, but it’s still bullshit. If you want something that is kind of wheat-pastalike in texture (wheat-pastalike flavor is not an option, no matter what), you are better off with rice, white or brown. Different shapes and brands are better for different sauces, temperatures, and recipes. If you’re still remotely interested, read on!
A few years ago I had a spate of abnormal pap smears, which most women my age have had. They’re not fun, because for two weeks as you wait for the results of something called a “colposcopy” you’re 99% convinced you have cancer and keep having to bring yourself back from the edge of feeling very Emily in Our Town about your life (that part where she bids farewell to everything in Grover’s Corners) by reminding yourself that you’re being melodramatic and that you almost certainly don’t have cancer. Unless you do. Anyway, I didn’t have cancer any of the times, obviously, and finally a doctor who was willing to spend more then ten seconds talking to me said “Your body should have cleared the HPV by now. Something’s compromising your immune system. Have you been unusually stressed out lately? Maybe you should take a multivitamin or something.”
I used this as an excuse to do something I’d wanted to do for a long time anyway: I went to see my friend Rebecca Curtis for a nutrition consultation. You probably know Rebecca Curtis as the author of numerous mind-blowing and perfect short stories published in The New Yorker and Harper’s and Vice lately, but she is also a certified holistic nutritionist with a practice in Park Slope near the food co-op. I went in for my consultation and Becky gave me some tests, which if you are a Harper’s subscriber you can read more about here. She said “Your body really doesn’t like wheat.”
I didn’t want to hear this at all! But of course it was something I had semi secretly known in the back of my mind for years. I had justified and excused my constant feelings of illness in so many different ways. I wasn’t getting enough exercise, I’d gotten too much exercise, I had food poisoning, I’d drunk too much, I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. But it was getting harder and harder to ignore that most of the time I felt crappy, achy all over and sick to my stomach. I have a friend who hates hearing about people’s “digestion” so much that he thinks it’s the most disgusting word in the English language, and it’s true that it’s mostly boring and gross to hear about someone else’s digestive problems. But in the hopes of helping someone who’s going through the same thing and thinking “maybe this is normal, just a part of getting older?” I should tell you that I was spending like half an hour on the toilet on a regular, yet also irregular, basis, and also just feeling generally ill and in pain and delicate for hours afterwards. I don’t even know what to compare this feeling to. The word “poisoned” comes to mind.
Something was clearly wrong with me, but it had started so slowly and increased in severity so gradually that I didn’t have the opportunity to notice a dramatic shift between feeling okay and feeling sick. Also, to add to the confusion, sometimes I felt totally fine. Mostly, though, I didn’t want to even consider the possibility that how I was feeling had anything to do with my diet. What would be the point of life if I couldn’t eat and cook anything I wanted, anytime?
A big part of my identity at that point was about cooking and eating, and I felt like limiting what I ate would mean totally sacrificing that part of my life. If you scroll back through the archives of this blog, you can see that it started out as a celebration of all kinds of food, from gourmet to extremely trashy. I reveled in reddi-wip out of a can, momofuku pork buns, and tons of delicious cookies and pastries and bread. When I came back from my consultation with Rebecca, I bought myself a gluten-free cupcake and posted a photo of it here. It was made with chickpea flour and way too much unabsorbed oil. It tasted like a falafel with frosting.
I was not happy.
Also, I still felt sick. Loathe to actually go to a medical doctor for more testing, I persisted in following the diet plan that Rebecca gave me for about a year. While it didn’t include wheat (or nightshades, some cheeses, most red meat and cow milk), it still included some other gluten-containing grains like spelt. I didn’t read labels or ask waiters to check whether things were gluten-free, only that they didn’t contain wheat. I ate a lot of salads. I also sometimes “cheated” — especially where my cookbook club or other dinner clubs were concerned. I never wanted to be the person turning down homemade, delicious food or worse, picking the crust off a pie because of some hippieish, neurotic “intolerance.” But of course I always felt terrible afterwards physically, even as I tried to convince myself mentally that having a YOLO attitude towards the sensory and social experience of food was worth feeling bad the next day.
The following summer I got a new job and new health insurance. I decided to use it as an opportunity to see a new doctor, and to be totally upfront with her about the extent of my struggle to figure out what kind of food I should be eating. She listened attentively and talked to me for like a half hour, then embarked on the diagnostic mini-odyssey that would eventually reveal that I have ***official celiac disease***!!!
It’s a testament to how confusing and strange this whole realm of life can be, and how far I’d come since my original “diagnosis,” that my reaction to being told that I will never eat another croissant or bowl of dan dan noodles or momofuku pork bun was absolute joy and relief. It was great to know that I wasn’t crazy, that my symptoms weren’t some figment of my hysterical imagination, and that there was something simple I could do to feel better. It was also nice to have a license to tell family and friends and strangers at restaurants that I had a medical condition, not an inconvenient whim. It’s still awkward as hell, of course, but one of the things Rebecca told me that I still think about a lot is that if people are going to act really put out because you can’t eat the food they made the way they intended it to be eaten, that’s on them, not you.
Also, in just the time I’ve been noticing, and probably thanks much more to people who have inconvenient whims (but who probably feel better when they don’t eat gluten, I’m not hating) the food industry has gotten MUCH better at making gf versions of bready staples. The America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free cookbook is a total godsend. They were the ones who convinced me to stop eating (hi! welcome back to my original point) quinoa pasta. It’s fine if you want to think of it as entirely some other genre of food, but it’s definitely not pasta!
Rice, on the other hand, has a long history of being used to make noodles. It works decently well for this purpose. Even though it might seem weird to use Asian-style rice noodles in more Italian situations, it doesn’t actually taste that weird. To make the pasta salad above, soak a package of pad thai noodles (I used brown rice ones, but white rice works too) in boiling water til they’re as soft as you want them, rinse them in cold water, shake dry, then combine with pesto, chicken, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Serve outdoors in summer. Enjoy life however you can!