Blair Braverman: What Does Survival Mean?
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
In this episode, Mitzi talks to Blair Braverman about her new novel, Small Game.
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From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: The premise of your novel Small Game is that these contestants are on a reality show to survive in the woods for six weeks. But it does present a philosophical question, are you really surviving if help is just one question away? Your main character says to another contestant, “It’s a survival game. We’re playing a game. It’s not survival if you have a choice.”
Blair Braverman: Right, what does survival mean? Does survival mean you’re boiling your water, and you’re hunting for food, but you have medical care right there. And if you get too hungry, you can leave. Or, does survival mean you are on this sort of knife edge where you might or might not make it or you might or might not meet your needs at any given time. And there actually isn’t an escape route. And I would say survival is the second. And that isn’t necessarily something that has to be located in wilderness.
Mitzi Rapkin: Tell me more about that.
Blair Braverman: You know, if we think of survival, because I had to think what does survival actually mean? And that was something I thought about a lot as I was writing this book, and I don’t have an objective definition, but I had to come up with a working definition for the purposes of this novel.
And if we think of survival as fighting to meet your basic needs, and not knowing if you’re going to meet them on a day-to-day basis, that’s something that people encounter a lot in civilization, but it’s something that we have assigned to wilderness like if someone says a survival show, we know that it’s going to be people with a knife in a forest, I mean, I think that’s wrong. I think that’s a narrative we’ve come up with, to not have to face how close we all are to survival, often, particularly without social safety nets, you know, as we know this country doesn’t have that many of them.
Blair Braverman is a writer, adventurer, and long-distance dogsledder who has completed some of the toughest sled dog races in the world. Her non-fiction books include Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube and Dogs on the Trail: A Year in the Life. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Outside magazine and a contributor to The New York Times, This American Life, Vogue, and many other venues. Her third book and debut novel is called Small Game. She lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, Quince Mountain, and their team of sled dogs, called BraverMountain Mushing.