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Author Archive: "Kate Christensen"

Powell’s Q&A: Kate Christensen

Describe your latest book.
Blue Plate Special is the autobiography of my first half-century of life, with food as the subject. I wanted to write a food book for many years, partially in homage to the great M. F. K. Fisher, whose books had sustained me through dark and lonely times. As I started to write about food, my own life became the scaffolding and structure, since food and memory are as intertwined for me as food and language.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
In 1990, when I had just arrived in New York City as a wet-behind-the-ears 20-something girl from Arizona, I spent a year or more working as the personal secretary and secret ghostwriter to an American-born countess in her apartment on the Upper East Side. She was terrifying, fascinating, maddening, and glamorous; I was hapless, hung over, scruffy, and ambitious. That job became the inspiration for my first novel, In the Drink.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"In your memoir, no one should look like an asshole but you." – Rosie Schaap

How do you relax?
After ...

Comic Noir

Last weekend at the Iowa Writers' Workshop's 75th reunion, I sat on a panel with two other writers, Benjamin Hale and Matthew Rohrer. The topic we had been asked to discuss was "How Does Humor Speak the Unspeakable?" Before the conversation devolved into banter about Hello Kitty ("Everything cute is also sad," said Matthew; we pondered this and found it true, but not the converse), we attempted, with commendable earnestness, to address the question.

On the plane the day before, I had serendipitously stumbled on an interview with the comic Louis C. K. in the in-flight magazine. Asked how comedy speaks the unspeakable, he said something like, "You remove all reason and logic from a situation, and then what's left is passion and confusion." This made me think of Lear's Fool, the only person in the play who can say unspeakable things to the king without being banished; he tells the truth by couching it in verse, riddles, and jokes: "He that has and a little tiny wit— / With a heigh-ho, the wind and the rain— / Must make content with his fortunes fit, / Though ...

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