Lauren Oyler: In Defense of Autofiction
In Conversation with Courtney Balestier on the WMFA Podcast
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
In this episode, Courtney Balestier talks to Lauren Oyler, author of Fake Accounts, about the concept of autofiction, real versus fake vulnerability, and how the artifice of the novel form is part of its power.
From the episode:
Lauren Oyler: I think of autofiction now as any fictional work that creates explicit confusion or conflation between one of the characters, probably the main character and the author. And something that I think is interesting about it is that a lot of writers who definitely do it, based on this definition, reject it. There’s this very funny video of Knausgård doing an interview and he says, “Nobody thinks about autofiction less than me.” But if you want to understand what it is, you should read those books, because those books in the end are about the writing of those books and the reception of Karl Ove Knausgård and the books that he wrote.
There’s a heightened desire to understand what’s behind the thing that we’re reading. And ostensibly, it’s easier than ever before to learn about the author. So it’s harder to justify pretending doing this sort of classic fictional thing where you’re like, I’ve sat down to write some characters. I use this Rachel Cusk quote all the time in all sorts of things, but she’s always saying that fiction is fake and embarrassing. And I think Sheila Heti says this as well. And I understand where they’re coming from. But maybe we’ll get over that.
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Lauren Oyler’s essays on books and culture have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, London Review of Books, The Guardian, New York magazine’s The Cut, The New Republic, Bookforum, and elsewhere. Born and raised in West Virginia, she now divides her time between New York and Berlin.