Erin Somers on Rich Kids, Melancholy, Slapstick, and More
In Conversation on So Many Damn Books
On So Many Damn Books, Christopher Hermelin (@cdhermelin) and Drew Broussard (@drewsof) discuss reading, literature, publishing, and their ongoing failure to get through the TBR pile (all with a themed drink in their hands).
In this episode Erin Somers stays up with the Damn Library to talk her new novel, Stay Up With Hugo Best. Everyone gets into phantasmagoric Late Night universe-making, and then into how there’s meaning in melancholy, and sometimes it’s better to buckle down even when things aren’t going right. And then they talk Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding, and the melodrama, and the pianos, and the slapstick without slapstick comedy of it all.
On writing Hugo Best’s hot son
Christopher Hermelin: Once we’re at Hugo Best’s house, he almost disappears for a lot of it. I was biting my nails with the relationship with the son—his son is like 17 years old and I was thinking of Rich Kids of Instagram, that lifestyle of having a lot of money and not having any perspective on the world—but there’s this creepiness, she seems interested in him but not? There’s a black hole there that she’s attracted to in some way.
Erin Somers: Yeah, Spencer the hot son.
ES: I love Spencer, I loved writing Spencer. He is inspired by… So I grew up in South Carolina but after I grew up, after I was an adult, my parents moved to the northeast to Greenwich, CT and my kid sister did one semester at Greenwich high school and hung out with grandsons of Bernie Madoff in their weird huge houses. And she was new, and she was from the South, so she was popular so she was out on their boats and would tell me things and I would milk her for details. That’s what inspired Spencer Best—but I thought that there should be some element of triangulation between the tensions between her and Hugo, and her and the son Spencer, and he is also a good device for making her unable to judge him for his indiscretions, because she’s about to do the same thing with his son.
On cancel culture and moral choices
CH: There’s an interesting exploration here of cancel culture in that June can’t quite cancel Hugo Best because she’s so close to him and has this relationship and it seems like when you get closer to something, you can’t really do that.
ES: Or if someone is that dear to you.
Drew Broussard: And she starts to show similarly questionable moral choices! I would love to know how you balanced the morality of the novel—you go in thinking that when he shows up and picks her up and says “come with me to Connecticut,” you know what the story is, but then it defies your expectations at just about every turn.
ES: She finds out that she’s not as good as she thinks she is, which I think is interesting, or that she’s more complex than she thought she was and also she discovers things about what she wants, surrounding money and fame. It becomes clear to her that she wants money, she wants to be famous, and it was really important to me to just have her have realistic feelings in the moment. I think that it would be really hard to go to that fictional house of Hugo Best that’s filled with amazing art and a pool and is great, and not want it. I just tried to be honest to those feelings.
This Episode’s Recommendations:
Drew: The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
Erin: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo // Jay McInerney’s Instagram
Christopher: Clyde Fans by Seth