Emma Straub Talks With Chicago Literati

Emma Straub Talks With Chicago Literati

Who doesn’t want to hang out with Emma Straub? She’s a journalist at Tavi Gevinson’s website Rookie, she wrote a novel about the golden age of Hollywood, and she performed with The Magnetic Fields. With her blonde hair and her peaches and cream complexion, she looks like a summer day and is just as delightful as one. Straub is ambitious and her writing bears a depth that goes beyond her years. With the recent publication of her spectacular debut novel, Laura Lamont’s Life In Pictures, Straub is cementing her presence in the literary world. Without further adieu, I bring you an exclusive interview with Emma Straub.


What were some of the challenges you faced in writing, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures?

The biggest challenge was the research necessary—I’d never written anything remotely historical before, and though I don’t think of the book as a ‘historical novel,’ it does all take place before I was born, in a very different part of the country. It was really important to me not to mess that up, and so I spent a lot of time reading books about old Hollywood, and the studio system in particular.


What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

 I don’t know if I can say without major spoilers! What I will say is that several characters die in the book (it spans 50 years, so that by itself isn’t very strange, I swear, I’m not a murderer), and those scenes were always challenging for me to write, and therefore satisfying to have written. There’s ones scene with Laura and someone she loves right before he dies, a very small, tender moment—that’s probably my favorite. I wept as I was writing, which I don’t recommend.


Who are your favorite kinds of characters?

Unpredictable ones.


If you could go back in time to any era, which era would you choose? Why?

 Hmm. The 1920s, maybe, just for the parties and the glittering headpieces. Though drop-waisted dresses don’t do me any favors. Maybe the 1940s, all slinky and noir? I’m really only thinking about my wardrobe options.


What inspired you to become a writer?

My inability to do math.


What is your favorite book?

An impossible question! I’ll give you my current top few: Middlemarch, by George Eliot, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, The Wife, Meg Wolitzer, Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.


In your raw and poignant short story collection, Other People We Married, you face a lot of scandalous and awkward events head on, where did this work come from?

My MFA program, truly. I had always been really afraid of writing scenes of conflict. (The awkwardness had always come very naturally.) But my MFA program, and Lorrie Moore in particular, really pushed me to do that. I will be forever grateful.


What was it like to perform with The Magnetic Fields?

Oh, just heavenly. They are some of the dearest, dearest friends, and it was a wonderful way to cap the last ten years I’d spent touring with them.


What is your favorite album by them?

It depends entirely on my mood. If I’m feeling vampiric and gloomy, Charm of the Highway Strip. If I’m feeling bubbly, Holiday. They are all wonderful.


What is the best thing about working at Rookie?

Being engaged in an on-going conversation with the brilliant feminist youth of the world, for sure.


If you could have one magic power, what would it be?

Either to be less anxious or to make vintage dresses always exactly my size. Whichever.


Emma Straub is from New York City. She is the author of the novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures and the story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue, and many other journals, and she is a staff writer for Rookie. Emma lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband.

You can buy Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures here: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Lamonts-Life-Pictures-ebook/dp/B0085DOK4Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363297131&sr=1-1&keywords=laura+lamont%27s+life+in+pictures

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