Personal Space: Laura Lippman Dares to Focus on Herself
The Author of My Life As a Villainess Talks to Sari Botton
On this episode of Personal Space: The Memoir Show, Sari Botton interviews Laura Lippman, author of My Life as a Villainess, published by William Morrow. In this wry essay collection she writes movingly about becoming a mom in her fifties, choices she made in her career as a journalist and a bestselling crime novelist, the challenge of maintaining friendships over time, and aging as a woman in America. Please consider purchasing the book from your local bookstore, or through Bookshop.
Sari Botton: One of the questions you address in the introduction really speaks to me. You write: “The question that hovers over anyone who dares to write personal essays, especially a woman, is, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’” . . . Particularly for women, there’s still this old sense of “How dare you focus on yourself and your experience?” How did you overcome that?
Laura Lippman: I was very aware that the perception of women talking too much, taking up too much space, insisting on having attention paid to their feelings and their thoughts and ideas disproportionately—I knew that was inaccurate.
I tell this story all the time: I was at lunch with a good friend, a man. It was when my first marriage was falling apart. I was pouring my heart out to him. At the end of that lunch, a man who was sitting in the restaurant walked over and passed a note to my friend that said something like, “The average woman speaks 100 words for every word the average man speaks,” and scuttled away. I found that so cruel. A stranger decided to insert himself into my life and suggest that I was talking too much about myself. I think every woman has stories like that.
So, I decided I was going to write about topics that were big enough that everyone cared about them. People care about aging, they care about body image, they care about parenthood, whether or not they are a good friend. I thought if I pick broad enough topics, then it’s not just about me. It’s my experience with these things that we’re all wrestling with.
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