Lynne Tillman Interview
An interview with Lynne Tillman, as conducted by Anna Elena Eyre for Barzakh.
Lynne Tillman is writer whose owl-like prose is able to see through the dark, in all directions,
and with a great distance telescope minute occurrences that perhaps will procure an intimacy of feast. Her newest collection of short stories, Someday This Will Be Funny, employs a narrative technique in which distance allows a reflection on the blurred nearness of intimacy. Her stories ask the reader to question not only WHO the characters are, but who she or he is reading them. I had the opportunity to sit down with Lynne one blustery spring afternoon and speak with her for about an hour and a half about her thoughts on publishing, fiction, honesty, ethics, psychotherapy, teaching and political writing. Lynne poured her regular afternoon cup of tea just as we were about to begin and accidentally spilled hot water on her fingers. She stamped but remained collected. I commented on her new porcelain traveling coffee cup and she remarked that one of her grad students had given it to her after getting tired of seeing her with any old “rag-tag” cup. I remembered carrying Lynnes’ tea for her as her graduate assistant the previous fall term and how grateful she was to have someone to help as she was recovering from surgery. We spent the semester over many cups of tea, and I learned a great deal from her about how to create an atmosphere in which one feels free to speak openly and calmly.
Over a cup of a tea, the following unfolded:
AEE: In an interview with Anne Yoder for The Millions you talked about the collapse of public
and private life as being similar to the collapse of publishing and writing life. Part of what you
said in that interview is that writing is really different from publishing. I wonder if you think that writers today have to become involved with publishing or self-promotion more than they had to in the past.
L: Oh, I think that’s absolutely the case. Writers are doing things now that they would have
never done, and it’s considered OK. It’s as though in our society now, if you don’t do selfpromotion,
you’re kind of stupid because the idea is that no one’s going to do it for you. It’s not
enough to bring out a book. The author has to be behind it in ways that are phenomenally
different from the way authors had to behave before. Although I’m sure Ezra Pound was doing
everything he could to promote himself (laugh). There’s a way in which everything that seems
true is not true.
AEE: I’m really curious as to why you chose to publish with Red Lemonade and your
involvement with Richard Nash’s Cursor project.
LT: Richard Nash published my last novel American Genius, A Comedy but at that point he was
still running Soft Skull press. He’d been running Soft Skull for about eight-years and he had a
very good reputation. Being published by him was an extraordinary experience. He said to me,
you know you’ve had a lot of books out but in a way this is your first book really being
published. I didn’t understand what he meant, and now with this new book I do. With his new
venture he’s trying to reinvent the publishing wheel by incorporating all of the different
publishing and social platforms. And, Someday This Will Be Funny is, in the sense he meant it,
my second book. I understand now what he means because he’s put more behind my work than
any publisher ever did. The appearance of Someday This Will Be Funny is getting so much
advance attention. I mean, pub date was May 1st and it’s gotten lots of advance coverage and
mentions all over the Web. It’s been amazing, Anna. Usually publishing is going to hell…and
that’s the difference between writing and publishing. Whatever writing is, it’s its own hell but
it’s your own hell. It’s not the hell that everybody else is in.
AEE: Would you say that he was doing more of what a traditional publisher would do than what
is considered standard today?
LT: Oh, he’s doing everything. He’s leaving no stone unturned. He sends out a million bound
galleys, he follows up, he sends galleys and finished books to people whom he think may be
interested but who don’t write about books, because he believes the way books sell is that people
talk about them.
AEE: Do you think that self-promotion changes writing?
LT: For me as a writer it makes no difference. When I write, it’s not about me. It’s different
from me. It’s a different me. Whatever it is, whoever is writing it is not the Lynne Tillman who’s
walking around, has friends, and goes out for coffee. And that’s not the kind of writing I
represent anyway, so objectifying myself even more by helping publication of my work doesn’t
seem that great a leap. It certainly doesn’t and wouldn’t change the way I would write.
Publishing is just not writing.
AEE: It’s a whole other animal…
LT: I think there are some writers who don’t want to do it and won’t ever do it, and I completely
understand that position, but we are living in a moment that is both premodern and postmodern.
It’s a very strange time and the systems of production and delivery have changed and will
continue to change quite rapidly in this new technological revolution.
AEE: In what ways do you think we’re premodern?
LT: I mean, there’s still the handmade, and the writing down of something. There is the urge to
write, which preceded modernity as we know it and appeared in prehistory. The question of
delivery systems has changed over and over again. I wrote a book about a bookstore, a cultural
history through one store, Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeanette Watson and Books & Co.,
and I learned a great deal about how books got published; how they got chosen to go into which
bookstores and why. Most of the assumptions I had about how bookstores worked were wrong.
Now they don’t work that way either. Many of my favorite bookstores, the smaller ones around,
are in greater jeopardy as people use them to browse but then buy books online. Not having the
tangible object to look through may become something that people become so used to that the
memory of going to a bookstore and seeing and feeling the cover of a book and opening its pages
and feeling the paper may not exist to younger generations, and that may be just a memory in the
way that people who work with video don’t know what it felt like to work with 16 mm super
eight film. It’s interesting to me that people are now working on old typewriters and that vinyl is
coming back. When everything appears to be in one condition there’s a reaction or another
formation that responds. It’s a dialectical relationship between object-hoods.
AEE: You generally publish with smaller publishers…
LT: I didn’t start that way.
AEE: Was there a conscious move?
LT: Conscious in the sense that you go where you can be published. Four of my five novels
were published with larger presses, but I’ve always mixed it up and I’ve never stopped not
publishing with small, even so-called throw-away magazines. If people approach me and I have
something (oftentimes I don’t), but if I know the editor and if I have something…
AEE: So, it’s more about who wants to take you work?
LT: Who wants to take my work and where I want to put it. I don’t make a lot of money from
my writing. Let’s say I was someone pulling down a lot of money for each book, then there
would be a different situation. That hasn’t happened to me. Not a lot of money. I’ve made some,
but not a lot and not every year.
AEE: Do you feel that sort of liberates you from having to perform for a certain audience?
LT: I wouldn’t call any of that liberation. I would call it circumstances—conditions. You either
work with those conditions and find the best way to handle them, or you feel trapped by them.
AEE: That’s interesting. I think circumstances are a large part of what you write about…the idea
of limits and how you work within those limits and how those limits can also be changed. I’d
like to ask you about your writing process and then those kinds of things you write about and
why. Have you always wanted to write? When did you know that you could write for a job or
could be a writer?
LT: I never thought of it as a job, but I made the decision to be a writer when I was eight.
What’s amazing to me, and I’ve said this to other people, is that I actually did it. When I think
back to being an eight-year-old and think about making that decision, it seems strange, but I was
absolutely convinced and I loved writing and I thought I was really good at it, and I even thought
I could be a great writer, and therefore I was just going to do it. But of course between that and
writing and being able to show my writing to people were many years of analysis and therapy
(laughs), so it’s a curious thing. Human beings are so contradictory. On the one hand I always
held on to that idea boldly, even narcissistically, and on the other hand I was shaking like a leaf.
AEE: I know you never were a participant in a writing workshop but who were the teachers who
inspired and encouraged you to write and how did they do it?
LT: My first grade teacher, Ms. Betty was wonderful, and she liked me. My seventh grade
teacher, Ms. Alexander was my homeroom teacher and all year we did our class newspaper. She
made me one of the editors, of our Classroom News, so that was a vote of confidence. The next
year, in eighth-grade, Ms. Betty, my first grade teacher, who had become Mrs. Block, was my
eighth grade teacher, and she had us write stories in her English class. She said, now I want you
to write the ending to The Lady and the Tiger. I was in a particularly dark period of my life,
which had begun when I was ten, and I wrote something, and I knew it was good, but I didn’t
expect to be called in front of the class to read it aloud.
AEE: How was that?
LT: That was terrifying since I was having a very awful time with friends at that time, but I
remember going up there with stoical determination to do it and the fact that she wanted me to do
it was kind of amazing to me, and I knew it meant a lot. Then I had some more teachers in high
school; I really started messing up in high school, my freshmen and sophomore years. I didn’t
want to do any work at all, I didn’t want to memorize (laughs)…and I was getting more and
more depressed. There were some teachers who knew I was in trouble and I did get support, but
always I was doing some writing, not in any consistent way. I also did a lot of reading, a lot of
reading with an eye toward writing.
AEE: I think that speaks to the way you teach. One of the things I really liked about being in
your workshop and watching the way you conducted it was that so often what happens is that
workshop will devolve into some kind of bad psychotherapy or group therapy just because of the
nature of talking about emotions and things like that, but you were always able to steer the
conversation back around to craft and it wasn’t cold or wasn’t as though you were leaving out
content or meaning or any of that, but looking at the way craft constructed content. I wonder
what your thoughts are on workshops given your interest in psychoanalysis and feminism. Can
you see any relationships between those things and the way you approach teaching?
LT: I think my engagement in psychoanalysis and having been an analysand has helped me be a
better teacher than I might have been. For one, I avoid having a lot of interpretive discussion in
writing classes; this can dominate, completely dominate any class; also, younger students or
students generally will be writing about themselves or a lot of fantasy, science fiction. If a young
woman is writing about a story about rape, generally it’s pretty close to home; and you see other
issues with boys, who are writing different material about sex and violence. Violence in the
home is a big subject with boys and girls. So how do you, as the teacher, deal with that? I don’t
want to run a therapy session. They’re in a writing class and I want them to understand they can
write anything they want to write. It’s a safe place to talk about what it is that’s on their minds
through their stories; but we’re not going to have, and I’m not going to lead, a discussion in
which their goodness or badness or others’ will be discussed, or how they’ve been treated as
children, etc.; rather we’re going to talk about the rhetorics of the story, the construction of a
sentence or how it is one achieves an emotional response in writing. That way I think the onus of
the content is taken off the writer as a person and that probably makes it easier for students to
bring in the next story; because if you don’t have some distance from what you’re writing about
anyway, I think you can’t get it. You can’t write it well. I always explain that what happened to
you isn’t on the page. What is on the page are the words that you use and the story that you’re
telling and how. That’s what we read. It doesn’t matter that it’s happened to you, it matters that
to you that it happened to you. I make that distinction all the time. And in relationship to my
being a feminist, I can see certain things at work when both boys and girls and young men and
young women continue to live out certain gender roles that are very limiting to them. The girls
limit themselves, as do boys, but they limit themselves more usually. I say to my students of
course you can write from the point of view of a boy, a girl. I have female students who say, I
don’t know what boys think. I say, of course you do, you do, but you’re not writing about boys
are you? You’re writing about a boy, one character, and you can write that. I often get my
students to read Virgina Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth,” which is a brilliant short story in
which a moth is personified so completely that I always cry in the middle of this very short story.
The life and death of this moth becomes as serious as the life and death of any other living
creature and that’s what I hope will get them to understand what it means to make an individual
character. Virginia Woolf wasn’t writing about moths, she was writing a moth and looking
at a moth.
AEE: She had a certain attentive awareness that I found you brought to your class—an
attentiveness both to character and language…
LT: It’s interesting to me that the critic Michael Wood, who wrote about Some Day This Will Be
Funny for Bookforum started out by saying something about my characters live in words or are
attuned to words. I thought that’s true, they are attentive to words themselves. They’re affected
by words, they’re made up of words. Every word counts. I like playing with these little twists in
language which also relate to the kinds of contradictions in experience that different characters
will have. The other night I read “The Substitute” at St. Marks Books and I hadn’t ever read that
aloud, and I thought, when I finished, this is such a perverse story, oh no (laughs), and it’s very
sexy and very perverse.
AEE: Yeah, it’s a fantastic story. She lies to her therapist! I’ve been thinking a lot about how
these stories are of ethical decisions and how you decide what is right or wrong. I remember
being struck by your essay “The Truth of Fiction” in that you argue we live fictions, we tell
ourselves stories and the only one who can lie to yourself is yourself. Like how in the story “A
Shadow of a Doubt” there’s the little conscience, the bird
LT: My little fairytale …
AEE: Yes, who says, “the biggest lies are the ones you tell yourself”—I think that’s very true,
but then there’s the question of how you decide what is a lie. The woman in “The Substitute” lies
to her therapist, but did she lie to herself and when do you recognize that you’ve lied to yourself
LT: And she is saying to herself that the therapist believes in fantasy so it’s not a lie because he
will understand that…
AEE: And this happens in other stories in the book as well like the woman who’s in love with
movies stars she can’t have ….
LT: Not in love, she wants to have sex with them; that comes from the story “More Sex”
AEE: Yes, that’s interesting, her desire for something she can’t have
LT: Which is at the heart of desire. I mean, apart from something like chocolate — once you
have chocolate you probably want and can get more — once you have what you desire in a love
object, at a certain point the in-love-ness changes, then the desire for that same kind of desire
takes over; or maybe the desires sit all right in a more comfortable place, having been satisfied.
AEE: That’s interesting in that last story is all about love…
LT: Not the last story, the second to the last story. No, the last story is apocalyptic…
AEE: What was the process In putting these stories together? It looks like they were written over
the course of a decade.
LT: The majority, I’d say around 80 %, was written between 2003 and 2010. The most recent
is The Original Impulse. Just a few were written earlier and revised, particularly Love Sentence.
That novella was published first in 1994 in a psychoanalytic journal called American
Imago which in fact Freud started in America, then died shortly after, but it started under his
imprimatur. This issue on love was guest edited by Thomas Keenan, a literary critic and theorist,
a Derridean, who more recently started a human rights program for undergraduates at Bard. His
first book was called The Ethics of Responsibility, so he’s always been involved, as Derrida was,
with ethics and responsibility. He asked if I’d write something for this and I wrote Love
Sentence; and when I wanted to publish it again later, there were certain things about the writing
that were too coy. I did more revising on that piece, not a huge amount, but some, than I ever did
before. Usually I feel I’ve done it, it’s finished, been published, and it is what it is. When you
look back at your writing, what you feel haunted by is the character you were when you wrote it.
The writing shouldn’t be changed because of that. But in this case there were certain stylistic
things I felt too distant from. There was too much language play of a kind that was very popular
in the 80’s into the 90’s because of Lacan and so on. It’s very easy, if you have a facility with
words, it’s really easy to pun, but to me now it seemed very thin on the ground. I didn’t remove
it all because it’s in the nature of the story, which was to take apart the sentence “I love you,”
which I like, but there were certain things that I just felt…what would they say in late 19th
century? that were “gilding the lily,” which was what Edith Wharton wanted to get rid of; she
wanted the lily. She wanted Lily Bart to get rid of the gilding.
AEE: Too much decoration…so keeping in mind this interest in ethics and responsibility which
of course would differ for each person and keeping in mind how you can write a story in which a
person can reflect on that, it seems to me very much that in the first story the decision of the
narrator at the end to say in affect, I do what I like to do and I don’t do what I don’t like to do, is
very intuitive and impulsive. I wonder if there’s something in that for you? I don’t know if this
rubs against psychoanalysis or feminism in a way or also with animals the moths, the bird—
instinctual knowledge. Is there a way to get back into that impulsiveness?
L: I don’t think we ever lose it. I think that Freud would say that the instincts are always fighting
our civilized selves and our civilized selves are always fighting our instincts but because we’re
animals, and our sexual organs….we have sex and procreate, and shit and piss all in the same
area. The orifices are very close to each other and in some cases the same. Similarly, it’s very
hard to separate the instinctual from the civilized. Freud was highly aware of this, and I think it’s
one of the reasons his theories have been been rejected by some. It’s not just his case for the
primacy of sexuality and the unconscious but also that he’s always reminding us that human
beings are animals who can never escape their animal nature, that we’re ruled by drives that one
can’t completely control. So, what I was thinking about in that story was: here’s a character
who’s trying to live an ethical life but is also recognizing her contradictions and being honest
about them. I think that the attempt to be honest is in itself not necessarily ethical, because you
can fool yourself by thinking that just thinking about being ethical you are ethical. I don’t think
that’s the case. You can do a lot of terrible things to others and regard yourself as an ethical
person. I wanted to make that distinction because it’s around me, its’ in me, I see it happening all
too often, and it’s not to call everybody out and say you’re all bad but rather to say, let’s be
conscious that this occurs.
AEE: And try to be honest with ourselves. I think a lot of what your characters make me look at
is how they’re not being honest or are being honest, or how I’m being or not being honest in
relationship to them.
LT: When my first novel Haunted Houses came out, I remember another writer who hadn’t yet
had a book come out, one of my peers, said, “I just read your novel, and, you know, you make no
compromises” and I walked away from that encounter thinking, “What is he talking about? What
compromises should I make?” And so part of me that’s idealistic or naïve sometimes doesn’t
recognize that there’s a lie to be told. As I go on in life I recognize more and more that I can lie,
but in writing it just never occurs to me.
AEE: Wow. That’s so wonderful to me as so many people would say fiction is a lie, they don’t
LT: They don’t understand that fiction is not a lie.
AEE: Maybe fiction is more honest…
LT: It depends on who’s writing. The distinction I make is that fiction doesn’t have to be based
upon actual people or events. Fiction uses verisimilitude, something that might have happened or
something that might not have happened. Fiction is a human-made adventure—creation. Fiction
is by human beings about human beings and their thoughts and things that happen or things that
don’t happen. It’s not based on actual events, but can also be about them. True rather than Truth,
with a capital T. In that essay, “The Truth about Fiction” (which I called “The Assault on
Fiction,” but the editors changed it; I would never have called it the truth about fiction as you can
imagine), I use the fact of Monica Lewinsky having kept the dress that had President Clinton’s
sperm on it. Now that’s a fact. She kept that dress and it’s a fact that his sperm was on the dress,
but we can write stories forever based on this fact, interpreting it. And the fact in-and-of-itself
may seem fascinating, but it’s not, it’s the interpretation of what it might possibly represent or
mean or say about behavior and politics and consciousness and unconsciousness, that’s what’s
interesting. I met Monica Lewinsky at a party, it was a huge party, there were a lot of famous
artists, musicians, and writers in the room; but of course she was the most famous person there,
and compelling. I liked her, I had a very brief talk with her, and I felt so badly for her because
her life was destroyed in many ways, she can’t be in a room without someone who’s been alive
in the last 30 years not remembering what happened. She can’t lead a normal life, and so I feel
for her, and I saw her as a person, and nonetheless I kept thinking, why didn’t she throw out that
dress? And how could she have friends with that horrible woman, Linda Tripp?…just wanting to
understand the story.
A: I wanted to ask about nationalism, American Genius A Comedy and Motion Sickness deal a
lot with Americanism. I wonder what your thoughts are now on honesty and the American
character. You’ve written that “what Americans fear is to have a world different from their
mothers and fathers”—do you think this is true?
LT: There are shifts. This could be such an incredibly long discussion. I grew up studying
American History and being fascinated by the Constitution, and the tenets of what American
revolution and democracy were supposed to be, with all of the virtues, contradictions, and
deplorable failures. I still, until very recently, thought that we could pull it off…the American
experiment. I mean, that we would become freer and freer, the Court would stay liberal and loose
constructionist, etc. I’m not saying that it’s all over and we’re done for, not yet, but I’m sure that
many people feel that. I don’t think that’s the case, although what’s happening scares me. You
know, obviously the tea potty, ha, yes, they all should go shit in their tea potty… it scares the
hell out of me and the insanity of these people and their attitudes toward Barack Obama, toward
reproductive rights, Medicare, etc. It’s like sand now, America, there’s nothing to hold onto, you
feel that’s so, and so scary. That we invaded Iraq in 2003 has been one of the most devastating
political and ethical schemes in US history. Cheney and Rumsfeld are the Iagos of America,
they’re villains, great villains, but there’s no Shakespeare for them, though. (Laughs) I look back
at American history, at say the age of Jackson, and know there’s always been many very horrible
ideas and arguments, obviously, states rights and slavery; but I think the thing that’s most
fearsome to me is the rise of fundamentalist religion everywhere. It seems to me that the 20th
century in many ways has been wiped out already. We seem in the 21st century to have joined
with the end of the 19th century. Anything that might have been learned in the 20th century is
just gone, and the empires are re-forming around nations and religion, whether it’s Christianity
or Islam. There’s religion, culture, ideology, capital, and then there’s women. In this very strange
brew we’re living in all these fundamentalist religions want women to be restored to a period in
which they had no agency at all.
AEE: Yet touted to have agency. For example, the Tea Party really front-lines women…
LT: We have to separate the Tea Party from religious fundamentalists; they are more economic
fundamentalists. Fundamentalist Christians in this country are pushing women right back.
George Bush’s first act as president, on his first day, was to take away US funding from the UN
for clinics worldwide that had to do with reproductive rights if they provided abortions. I think
that the Taliban and fundamentalist Christian’s attitudes, the Pope and the Vatican, too, aren’t so
different when it comes to women, who often get left out of this equation—the control of
women, their sexuality, the control of reproduction and who gets to choose. More than half the
world are women, and people involved in the fight for human rights worldwide know that unless
the life of women change, real change won’t occur. So I’m very worried about America, very
worried about America, and I don’t, as I said, I don’t know what to hold onto. I haven’t given up
on democracy. We still are able to talk, argue, convene etc. I have a good friend in Cairo, a
younger writer, and she told me that some years ago she tried to start a literary magazine, but in
order to do that she had to get permission from the government because the government
wouldn’t allow the printers to print without an official document. Let’s hope all that has changed
or will. So Barzakh, Fence magazine, anything we want to print or publish we do. People here
just take that for granted. The problem in America is, people often think about the rights they
don’t have, but what we also need to think about are the rights we do have and that we don’t use.
We have a lot of rights…
AEE: We’ve just forgotten what they are…
LT: We don’t use them to the extent we could.
AEE: How do you feel that writing can be political? Certainly I think your stories are
investigating the nature of thinking the nature of the way people are or are not honest with
themselves and whether or not their being an ethical person and it always goes back to choice. Of
course democracy would be a good thing because its all about choice…
LT: I could say that everything we do is political or it’s all political, everything we write, and
think, and that’s absolutely true. I can make that argument easily. But it can also be a catchall.
It’s very complex. I’m a political being, say, I exist in the polis. But to say that you’re writing
something political, what does that actually mean? It’s only when it gets read that meaning is
created and what that meaning is I—writers—can’t decide. I can’t determine the meaning of any
story I write, I can’t determine if it has efficacy or effect. Can my stories be political? That’s for
a reader to decide, and I would want to ask, what does that mean, being political? There are so
many questions: is a bad poem a good political act? I’m thinking of George Oppen, who didn’t
want to write what he considered propaganda, and stopped writing, then started again; and Ad
Reinhardt who made abstract paintings and drew cartoons on politics. I write what I want and
need to write—what I’m thinking about—and what I’m thinking about is language, ideas, events,
attitudes, psychology, needs, etc., from and in the world I’m living —I’m not separate from it.
I’m part of it and its systems—I’m conscious and I’m not. I can say I write aware of politics, and
my beliefs and others’ beliefs. But that doesn’t mean a story will have meanings I intend or that I
intend specific results. What is expected from so-called political writing? You can’t refer to a
political event in a story or even have a dialectical argument in a story and say it’s political. Let
me give you an example, if directors want to make a movie look arty or intellectual, they might
hang art on somebody’s wall or put books in a room, as if to say this person thinks about art and
writing, and that’s window dressing. Writing and real politic or political events aren’t in
lockstep. I see “political” as encompassing enormous territory. Think about Kafka, at least I do,
often. I find so much meaning, social, cultural, political, sexual, in his work, and his writing’s
openness to interpretation, his parables, his indirectness, say, produce unintended effects. This
question has as many responses as the world we exist in has manifestations, where multitudes of
things occur simultaneously. Not everything can be everything. Everything isn’t everything,
there’s no totality, the parts are greater than the whole, and often don’t add up. Readers can find
what they want to find, in the end, or perhaps find more than they expected.
AEE: It’s all very distinct. Maybe if just, maybe if a story shows me something I wasn’t aware
of before or caused me to think of ways I wasn’t being honest with myself because of the system
that I’m a part of that I wasn’t aware I was a part of…
LT: Grace Paley is a great writer. Her honesty is extraordinary, because she doesn’t insist upon
it. You feel Oppen’s passion for what’s true, as questions not answers or solutions; good writing
opens to interpretations. And because of that, that honesty, it can be read differently, and always
subjectively, by different people.
AEE: So when you write a story you don’t write with the idea that you’re going to have this and
that effect, because you’re interested in this and that…
LT: I don’t believe you can control that. One time I wrote a story about a woman’s descent into
madness but its opening sentence was about the summer, the day of the parade in NYC for
Nelson Mandela, after he was freed and visiting America. I was using that as an idea of time and
place and mood. Here is this joyous event, but my character’s private misery was not affected by
Just then a student knocked on Lynne’s door for an appointment and we had to end our
conversation here. Mulling over the interview, I find the distinction between public and private
life surfacing throughout. The words we use are public and private. The character she spoke of in
the last instance speaks to me of how a person’s private experience of a word doesn’t always
mesh with the public definition. I wonder how a politics could take this into account or if it
could, as it seems more and more to me that writers enable one to experience words privately and
intimately in a way that the public domain obstructs. Our private lives aren’t public, but the
public can protect them. Perhaps if we had a public wherein we were invited to tea to discuss our
private beliefs honestly we could effect change. We do effect change.