Samantha Hunt on What It Means to Believe in Ghosts
In Conversation with Jordan Kisner on Thresholds
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the essay collection Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In this episode, Samantha Hunt joins Jordan to talk about The Unwritten Book, what it means to believe in ghosts, grieving the death of her father, and confronting the darkness out there in the woods.
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Geodesic domes • Slasher movies • Flash Count Diary by Darcy Steinke • If Not, Winter by Sappho, translated by Anne Carson • One Direction
From the episode:
Samantha Hunt: That’s one question I started this book with—do you believe in ghosts? I was asking myself that, too. Do I believe in ghosts? What’s a ghost? Is a postcard a ghost? Is a bruise a ghost? There’s a lot of different ghosts. I was thinking about, what are the things that we carry in our body that we can’t get rid of? Even pop songs. There’s an essay about the band One Direction in there because their songs get into my body and I can’t get them out.
Anything like that that we carry around with us, the way that maybe that person is thinking about carrying their ancestors, the way that we carry our gut bacteria, all of these things that make up one body, how many of those things are ghosts? And so the question do you believe in ghosts becomes a lot more complicated really, really quickly for me.
When I started writing about the dead and when I started writing about hauntings and ghosts, I was quickly frustrated by people who were really dismissive of the idea of ghosts, because they’re thinking of one movie or television haunting.
Jordan Kisner: They’re thinking about Ghostbusters.
Samantha Hunt: Exactly. Yeah. Oh my gosh, that was one of my original questions. I was like, if ghosts are dead people, why are they all evil? Do you hate all your dead people? Why is it suddenly this idea of, like, AHHHH, this scary ghost in the closet?
For more Thresholds, visit us at thisisthresholds.com. Original music by Lora-Faye Åshuvud and art by Kirstin Huber.
Samantha Hunt is the author of the non-fiction book The Unwritten Book, the story collection The Dark Dark and the novels Mr. Splitfoot, The Invention of Everything Else, and The Seas. Hunt is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 prize, and the St. Francis College Literary Prize, and she was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. She lives in upstate New York.