Lynn Steger Strong on How Books Can Fail Us
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
On how books can fail us:
Maris Kreizman: Towards the end of your novel your heroine says, “I think of all the way books have failed me, all the ways they’re less than what I thought” and I must admit that I burst into tears at that part. Tell me about the ways that books can let people down.
Lynn Steger Strong: I think once you start to look out, which is to say that I feel deeply, and I don’t think I’m understating this, that books saved my life. In a lot of ways other things were very complicated for me for a long time, and books really weren’t. They were this space that I went to and could return to that felt safe in a way a lot of other spaces didn’t. So I had this sort of dogged belief in their power. But then you grow up. In the same way that people learn that their parents aren’t superheroes, I think I gradually realized that books can’t feed my babies and fix all of the broken systems… You have to do more than the reading.
On the reality of what is attainable:
Lynn Steger Strong: The avenues through which you can have a sustainable life just keep getting tighter and tighter, regardless of the college you went to, regardless of your intelligence, regardless of your ability to work hard… I feel really strongly that above all else that I’m a fiction writer and I don’t think I’m informed enough to make arguments about all of this so much as I think that I’m good at looking at art. So I hope my book says some of that. Just look. These people who you think are X are actually Y, and the people who think are A are actually B. We can have all of these narratives of various experiences, and even I, having written this book, still think “Shouldn’t I be able to afford summer camp?” I know my reality but the narrative with regard to what I might have access to is so deeply embedded in my body that I both keep expecting it and being ashamed and disappointed by the fact that I can’t attain it.
Lynn Steger Strong‘s first novel, Hold Still, was released by Liveright/WW Norton in 2016. Her nonfiction has been published by Guernica, Los Angeles Review of Books, Elle.com, Catapult, Lit Hub, and others. She teaches both fiction and non-fiction writing at Columbia University, Fairfield University, and the Pratt Institute.
Belladonna by Daša Drndić