My mother says I’m not as clever as I could be.
“Why didn’t you just tell the INS officer you were a virgin before you married Emir?” she asked about the scene in The Marriage Act where an INS officer asks me if Emir is circumcised or not and I don’t know the answer because, well. “Why wouldn’t you just say, ‘I haven’t seen any other penises?’”
Good point, Mom.
Check us out jointly reading a scene together at Seattle’s awesome Elliott Bay Book Company! Great job, Profiler Mom! We will also jointly be on TV in Portland, Oregon on Monday – if KCRW’s Profiler segment was any indication, it should garner some laughs and potentially awkward moments. I’ll post it here when it airs.
Launch for the book was on Thursday at Book Soup, my favorite independent bookstore in LA. We all went down to The Abbey for the after-party, where there were go-go dancers, a bachelor party, and throwback cocktails from the book (ie, Cosmopolitans). I met my amazing editor, Dan Smetanka, for the first time, and had a blast spending the evening with him and a group of LA friends old and new. Dan snapped the picture of me with the go-go dancer (Marriage Act in his bikini bottoms!) and called it “a Soft Skull kind of book party.” Such a good time. I hope Hollywood calls for the book so I can go back…Hey, film execs! READ THIS
I am also on the cover of the Santa Cruz Weekly this week, which is my lovely beach town’s version of the Village Voice. Tomorrow, San Francisco! At BOOKS INC, Castro Location.
The Marriage Act is officially out, and it has been an interesting day. While life continues on as normal in happy little beach town–attempting to housebreak a potbellied pig, having a creative meeting over coffee with a friend, biking home in the sun, eating a Mediterranean Veggie Wrap from a deli–there’s been a whole lot of simultaneous online stuff brewing about the book…from where I sit, it feels like something happening over in a parallel dimension. I muse over the label of “controversy,” as an article in the New York Post–the cover story for the Pulse section puts it. They used the headline (in the print edition) “I was in a sham marriage,” which is what I want to address. I know what the headline writers are going for, but if you read the book, it is actually about revealing all the ways it was NOT a “sham” at all. (And I hate the word sham.) The article itself gets at the more nuanced notions of love, commitment, humor, and keeping someone you love with you, which are main ideas in the book. Calling it a sham may sell newspapers, but what I want to retort here is that I myself never used that word. Never would. Because it simply wasn’t. Which brings me back to the book’s original question: “who gets to decide what is real?” What kinds of love are “valid” or “invalid”–can there be such determining factors? The article spawned a few others, here and here, which pilfered photos from my Facebook page. My intent isn’t a complaint; I’m not easily offended or put off and was amused to see the random Facebook photos there–I prefer a healthy engagement (no pun intended) with difficult, complex subject matter–but what does interest me in looking at this is the nature of the times we’re living in. Everyone has a forum, or at least a (blogging) platform. We have online profiles carefully tailored to convey crafted personas of ideal selves. Everyone has the potential to be connected to everyone else. All material is fair game, public property, part of the commons. And once an author puts a story out there, there is very little she can control about interpretation and reaction. That’s part of what is so beautiful, frightening, and frighteningly beautiful about creating–and releasing–your art, and the ideas that matter most to you in the world.
What do you think? I welcome email and comments, even from the crazy basement people, with your thoughts on the book, the topic of love and marriage and how we define it today.
If you read the book (and I hope you will!) I hope you enjoy it and find some food for thought in there….
I’ve been thinking lately about the trajectory of a writing career.
There is no set path to follow, no ladder to climb, and no boss to tell you what to do. So it’s an impossible thing to map out — that’s why setting goals, reflecting often on how the process is going and where it should go next, and staying away from too many distractions are important. It’s a kind of work conducted in secret, in private. No one’s looking over your shoulder, and no one is going to chide you for not producing. At the same time, there’s no temptation in not producing — if I’m not writing, I’m basically a retired person, drinking coffee at the cafe and looking at the internet. That in itself scares me into productivity.
I realized that my first three books, Mexican High, The Marriage Act, and The Profiler’s Daughter (forthcoming) are actually a trilogy I wrote without intending to. They’re all first-person, mother-daughter stories. They are all about family and love.
Next, I want to do something completely, entirely different. I already have the idea, but I’m also not ready to embark on the huge undertaking of another novel quite yet. I crave the satisfaction that comes from starting and finishing a draft of something in a day. So I’m putting myself on the essay-and-short story track for a while. And that’s the only part of the writing process I can control — the decision of what kind of piece to write; after that it’s up to the muses’ moods and showing up every day at the keyboard. We’ll see what comes of it!
And under a month to go until publication! Perception of time can be strange. It was the summer of 2007 when I wrote a “shitty first draft” (see Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) of the book not yet titled The Marriage Act (there could be another chapter, “Shitty First Titles” – but I’ll save those for a future post). That fall, I salvaged ten or twelve lines from it in my first workshop in Nonfiction Writing MFA school based on some feedback I got that was something along the lines of “This would be great as a chick lit novel! There are so many pink martinis and venti nonfat iced vanilla lattes in the first ten pages.” Ooops. I hadn’t written the book I set out to write at all! I didn’t get to the beginning of what was to be the central concept until about page 250, which seemed insane when I first realized it but in hindsight was only part of the process. I had a lot of pre-writing to get out of the way, and also a lot more living to do. The book took eight years when all is said and done (if you count waiting for publication, otherwise it’s closer to six) and that felt like what is most commonly known as a long ass time. However, now it all feels as if it happened so fast! And I’m like, wait! I need to prepare! but, um, that’s what I’ve been doing for six to eight years, so, now that it’s close to launch I better be ready to birth this babe.
On another note, it’s a January afternoon in Santa Cruz and the current weather is 74 degrees. I’m sitting indoors at the coffee shop because the glare outside from the sun is too bright to see the screen.
There are still things I miss about New York but I’ve now realized exactly how much I’ve acclimated to sweet-little-beach-town life.
I would love to hear from readers so please email me at liza AT lizamonroy DOT com if you’d like!
Earlier in the fall, I read the provocative and controversial Jonathan Franzen piece in the Guardian, written in conjunction with the then-forthcoming publication of his new book, The Kraus Project. I’d just started teaching a writing class at UCSC and thought this was an amazing piece for modeling argument and using a lens, a source whose purposes you adapt for your own; Kraus:Vienna in early 1900s/Viennese press is to Franzen:United States, today/The Internet. Speaking of The Internet, it exploded into argument over the piece, many more anti- than pro-Franzen articles. I brought a selection of those into class, too, to model the idea of public discourse.
On Monday, in an appearance at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Franzen was introduced as a good friend of the bookstore. He then said this was the one and only bookstore event he was doing for The Kraus Project. Santa Cruz? Our sleepy little beach paradise? I wondered why.
Some Googling revealed that Franzen is actually a part-time resident. When not living on the Upper East Side, he, too, is here. Is it odd that learning this gave me some kind of weird validation?
Here are some articles and interviews in which he talks about SC:
Since I moved here I’ve been saying it’s the perfect place for a writer – I had no idea Franzen beat me to it. It’s a place that yields the good quiet life for producing work, but also has enough going on so one never feels out in the woods, unless you are, well, out in the woods – as in the actual redwoods, which is awesome. And this, whether true or false, is pretty funny: