Much of your writing feels influenced by your experiences growing up in Memphis, TN. How has your relationship to Memphis changed since moving to New York?
As a writer, getting away from where you are is everything. Memphis is like a strange, sweaty, street party at the end of the world. I moved to Los Angeles before New York, and that departure and starkly contrasting landscape, physically and otherwise, gave me the impetus to write about it. I never would have considered myself Southern or a person who could write for or about the South until leaving. Its lock on me is more complex and intense as time passes. I felt like an outsider when I lived there, and I feel disloyal that I left. It was leaving and moving on that allowed me to fully understand the history, the music, the food, the residual cultural trauma of that city and the wilderness of the natural landscape that surrounds it. This understanding was essential to my ability to mine those things, to wield them in order to make something new.
As for my personal relationship to Memphis and the people I knew, for that you'll have to wait for my tell-all memoir, forthcoming never.
You've put together some really great events already at Director of Public Programming at Housing Works. What's been your favorite event so far?
No such thing as a favorite event, they're all so different and come together in different ways. Their variety is what appeals to me most. A few weeks ago we had two events back to back -- a conversation about time in writing with Heidi Julavits, Kate Zambreno, Pamela Paul, and Richard McGuire and the following night, an event for The BreakBeats Anthology, a reading of 11 of the contributors. These are two events I really advocated for; they were based on books (in the case of the former, Heidi's THE FOLDED CLOCK) that are with no contest very high in the list of books that are most important to me this year. The two events were nothing alike, but they were both perfect for our space. Big, enthralled audiences came out for both. It was a pretty good week.
What can people expect from your reading?