Taffy Brodesser-Akner on the Impossibility of Having It All
The Author of Fleishman Is in Trouble on The Maris Review
This week on The Maris Review, Taffy Brodesser-Akner joins Maris Kreizman to discuss her latest novel Fleishman Is in Trouble.
On the impossibility of having it all:
Taffy Brodesser-Akner: [The book] is about the strange moment that people our age are in—especially women—where for the first time ever we have all this opportunity and all these choices to make, more than our mothers and certainly more so than our grandmothers, where we can do anything we want. It isn’t so clear if anyone told the men that we were told that we can do anything we want.
Maris Kreizman: I feel like I have a lot of friends … who are at this weird point where they get their “dream job” after years and years of hard work, and then they’re like, “Is this what I really want?”
Taffy Brodesser-Akner: Right, is this what I wanted and what I’m supposed to want? We have this whole societal conversation about how having it all is impossible, but we still have the disease of being told that it all included it all, meaning a man having it all does not require the things that women have had to have it all.
On emotional labor:
Taffy Brodesser-Akner: In the Goop store, the saleswoman sees me freaking out, and she comes up and sits me down in one of the seats and she gives me a thing of rose water. She said, “This is rose quartz water. This will make you feel better.” I really seeing the story so crystal-clear in that moment of an understanding that you think this could make me feel better. My problems are so much bigger than my feelings. They are about whether or not this child. If that’s called emotional labor, I’d still do it no matter how many times. My husband is competent, by the way. It happens to people, but it’s still shocking to me that there is nothing that I can say to my kids’s school and camp to convince them that they should call my husband first.
On the book’s title:
Maris Kreizman: Let’s talk about the title of the book. We’ve talked about that a lot.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner: We did talk about that a lot. You know that I had a lot of problems with this title. … The original title, which I still stand behind, is Schrödinger’s Marriage. Of the four places that wanted my book, my editor said in our first conversation about the book that you can’t call it Schrödinger’s Marriage because it has an umlaut and you’re setting yourself up for a disaster in a search bar. I thought that this can’t be true, that this is just some institutional thinking. However, even the people who liked the title misremembered it. They would call it like Heisenberg’s Marriage, and I guessed that this was right. You can’t call it that.
Then it was without a title for a very long time. … My editor at first suggested something that I liked, called In What Universe, because there is a little physics in the book, but then I found a YA novel that had that title. It is a really good YA novel title. I thought then that a thing no one would ever acknowledge—not my agents or my editor—is that there is a thing that you have to do to cancel out the goofiness of my name. It’s not just a woman’s name, and we all know how people feel about women. It’s Taffy, right? Then there is this last name. When my husband was just Brodesser and when I was just Akner, no one ever had a problem with it. Together, they melt brains. Then my lovely work wife suggested that I should call it Fleishman Is in Trouble, and it just tickled me. I loved it.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. She has also written for GQ, ESPN the Magazine, and many other publications. Fleishman Is in Trouble is her first novel.
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