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Hello, I'm writing an analytical essay on your short fiction, "The Cavemen in the Hedges." I was using the psychoanalysis approach for my paper, and wanted to discuss about the suppression and projection that Kim was slowly revealing. Well, my real thesis question is "How does Richter show couples in her (this specific) story, or what does Richter see in couples?" I found that, in this specific story, you took the man's point of view, to show of his faults in the relationship? His negligence to her emotions as she obsessively cleans the house to fill the void of his not wanting to marry. Where can all the cavemen fit in to this, is he also ignoring her initial fear? Maybe you could just give me a hint? Thank you so much for your help, and I really love this story.
Oh my. Hello, SKC. I'm so pleased you're writing about my story. I can't give you any answers, exactly, because I don't believe there are answers in literature, just different ways of framing the questions. So here are a few questions: are you sure Kim is the one (or the only one) doing the suppression and rejection? What if the cavemen are all actually female? Is her devotion to order only about her relationship with her boyfriend? Does this help? Probably not. One thing I can say for sure: the cavemen represent exactly what you think cavemen would represent: cavemen.
Have you ever known someone for a really long time, and suddenly seen them in a completely different way, so that you suddenly thought - this person is horrible! Why do I keep him/her around?? And maybe you had inklings of this for years but thought you were being snotty or judgmental, or thought that you'd been friends for so long that it didn't matter, you'd always be friends, etc. it's just that he/she is sort of shitty sometimes? And then you just sort of wake up one day and think - I don't have to put up with this shit. Or the person says something horrible and you suddenly say - that was totally hurtful and demeaning, why would you say that? And then the person claims you attacked her which is totally baffling from your end. You wonder why it took yourself so long to say anything in the first place and it feels great. Once you realize this, you have, like, furious rage against this person for all the years you didn't say anything to the shitty remarks and the rage lasts for months. And yet, you still feel guilty because even though this person is toxic, he/she claims to love you and when he/she's not being a total bitch, she can kind of be fun? And maybe you're just crazy for thinking she's toxic. Maybe it's you. Have you ever felt like that? And if so - what does it all mean?
Oy. I think things like this happen to almost everyone at one time or another, MaGillacuddy, and it’s never easy. I think what it means is this: people change. They may not change when you want them to or in the way you want, but they do change, and somehow you’ve evolved so that you don’t need so much shitty meanness in your life. That’s fantastic! Congratulations! I’m sure this took considerable thought and struggle on your part and you deserve a lot of credit. Now, here’s the thing: you’ve changed but your friend hasn’t. Really, when you think about it, why would she? It would be a freakish coincidence if she happened to snap out of her crap attitude at the same time you did. So even though I hate being on the side of assholes, I have a smidge of sympathy for your friend in this situation, MaGillacuddy. Here’s the thing: I would guess you’ve been getting something out of this friendship for all this time, even if your friend is a big fat jerk. There can be benefits to hanging out with mean people. It can be rather great to have a fierce person in your corner, who spews all the anger you're too timid or lazy to vent yourself, who scares away the faint-hearted and boring creatures you'd prefer not to deal with. But if you grow out of it, you have a problem: now you're stuck with this person who is used to being loved by you for her ferocity, and suddenly you're turning around and telling her she’s hurtful and demeaning. So indulge me for a minute and look at it from her point of view: she’s acting the same way she always has, a way that’s always seemed to be okay by you, and suddenly you’re enraged—but as far as she’s concerned, she’s just being herself. She’s probably hurt and confused, and if she’s an embattled person to begin with, that’s not going to make her act any nicer. Quite the opposite.
She might change someday too, who knows? One thing is for sure though, she’ll do it on her own schedule. But until then, at least she can still be fun at times, and it’s sweet of her to say she loves you, and I’m sure she wouldn’t be your friend if you didn’t have something worthwhile together. You know, it’s hard for a friendship to survive a change like this—you are essentially saying you’re not sure you like her anymore—but even if your friend doesn’t change, the nature of your friendship can. Unless she’s hurtful and demeaning to you—in which case I hope you draw the line and tell her it's not allowed (do it whenever you're ready but tell her)—maybe she’s just a friend with the flaw of bitchiness, which is on par with, let’s say, stupidity, weird relationship issues, over-drunkenness, and bad art making—it’s not fun, but maybe it’s not a fatal flaw.
Ms. Richter: I was happily entertaining myself your short stories while on the tarmac while everyone else moaned and groaned when a small fire broke out in the lavatory.They are very funny and I enjoy laughing at lines like the one about photos stealing one's soul, but the soul isn't much-used anyway, the land of carniverous dinosaurs where one goes when one goes "too far," and the comical use of citations in the Princess/Prince meth amphetamine story, but I am always braced for sadness finding its way in. I am wondering if you first imagine your characters in all their neediness and quirks before you start furnishing them with family (the high-strung rock start Mom), situations (the restaurant showdown)and their epiphanies or slapdowns (awkward teenage boy rejects awkward teenage girl, so she will instead throw her chips in with her over-the-top Mom.) I am wondering because it occurred to me, as i walk about in a strange city, that I start with the awkward or telling or uncomfortable or revealing moment when I write, and then try--and mostly fail--to build a story from that. Just curious..
Hi Elizabeth. The neediness and quirks arise as I write or re-write, I find, as do the awkward or telling moments. I sort of love those moments in real life and it's a good thing too, because if I didn't love awkward moments I would be screwed (I strive to be the first to arrive at parties). It's hard for me to get a story going from a detail. I usually start with some sort of conflict between two or more characters, then allow the characters to interact with one another. Isn't that a boring answer? And yet it usually turns into some sort of story, but not always. I find a story sort of sucks up telling details and moment and metaphors almost by accident, and in a way it helps not to try too hard to be smart. I will rewrite for years, but usually I'm trying to get the rhythm right.
I'm afraid I'm a failure as a fiction writer because I haven't read any contemporary work in a long time. I want to read something good, pure and unadulterated good, that's been written in the last 5 years. Doesn't matter whether it's a collection or a novel. Any ideas for me?
You are, you are a failure. Shame on you, Sigh! Go out and buy some hardbacks. It's a bad, selfish thing to want people to read your fiction while not reading anyone else's fiction yourself. You can't be in the world of books unless you're in the world of books. Also, books are wonderful and will change your life, including the new ones, though sometimes the new ones haven't quite found their place in the world yet so you have to sift through them a bit to find the ones you like the most. I'm not sure I've found anything that's pure, unadulterated good, though you can try Denis Johnson's long story Train Dreams, in the 2003 O.Henry anthology (though that's slightly outside your window), and Donald Antrim's essay I Bought a Bed in many anthologies and his book Afterlife. For extremely enjoyable and delightful but perhaps a little less than absolutely perfect, you could also sample from this varied lot: Like You'd Understand, Anyway, by Jim Shepherd, Milk, by Darcey Steinke, Twin Study, by Stacey Richter (sorry), The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, The Last Novel, by David Markson, Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link, and Drop City, by T.C. Boyle.
So, Stacey. We've all watched the endless banned-substance-revelations unfold in the world of Major League Baseball, and I think I'm not alone in wondering, "Have you, Stacey Mildred Richter (that's your middle name, right?), ever taken a performance-enhancing drug?"
I don't want to imply that I think you certainly have, but I'm just saying it seems like the right time to finally come clean and say you're sorry. That's all. But rest assured, S-Ricky, should you choose to confess, we, your mindless, sycophantic zombie-army (we prefer the labels of "the Richter Undeads" or even, more whimsically, "the Richter-lings), will absolutely forgive you, and stand behind you 100%. The ball is, as they say, in your court, my dear Mildred.
Hungering for Brains --Delicious, Delicious Brains,
Liam, Liam. Once I stole some of my ancient grandmother's Provigil, a stimulant prescribed to her when she was 99 years of age because she was sleeping 20 hours I day. I believe this is a banned substance in cycling, so yes, I have taken performance enhancing drugs. I'm not sure how feeling dizzy, wired, and tired all at the same time can enhance performance, but we have to go with the anti-doping committee's recommendation, so there it is.
You think I'm a zombie just because I want to eat your delicious brains?
Do you really know who I am? Really?
Ah, so true. Zombie?
Do you pay attention to the IP addresses of the people who ask you questions here so that, no matter what pseudonym people come up with in the little line name above, more or less, you know who is asking you questions? Just curious.
Uh, no. I don't know how to do that. Wait, I just asked someone. Okay, I see. I can check with my internet host and find out what city people are writing from, though apparently it's not always that precise, i.e. my own IP address says Phoenix even though I'm in Tucson. So even if I checked the IP address, I would only have a vague sense that certain pseudonyms might belong to the same person--which is fine, NonAnon. You can ask as many questions as you want. It's a big enough world that I doubt I could pin you down even if I knew your city. Do you think all the questions are from, like, two people I went to grade school with? That would be a little disheartening.
I do know who a few questioners are because I either know them in real life or they're pen pals who write me additional emails on the side (stretching the definition of "knowing" here). There are a lot of questions from Wag (who appears as some variation of Wag), my friend Chris, who in real life was trying to help me get my roof to drain, which is why there's a whole conversation below about how to get a roof to drain. Obviously I know who that is. Anyway, Non, to answer your question: I don't check the IP addresses, I don't know how, and I don't plan to start. Does this mean you have some sort of racy question you want to ask?
So, this might be a stupid question but what *do* you eat if no grains and potatoes and whatnot? What does breakfast look like without toast or cereal or whatever? Also - don't you got fuzzy brain from lack of carbs? Or do you just eat a lot of bananas?
I eat a lot of macadamia nuts and often think of Rabbit at Rest wherein Harry Angstrom dies from, I kid you not, eating too many macadamia nuts. For breakfast I eat eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and sometimes oatmeal because I'm a cheater. In general, I eat a lot of meat and vegetables and nuts and stevia. I eat fruit but I don't eat a lot of bananas. The reason I've adopted this diet is because (and again, I kid you not) people who don't eat processed food (flour, sugar, juice, Hot Pockets) seem not to get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cavities, and a host of other ailments, some of which have been bothering me. So, essentially I'm aiming for a hunter-gatherer diet but with some dairy because I'm too lazy to do it without dairy.
I'm not fuzzy without carbs, but I had to adjust to having less of them. At first I was fuzzy and really hungry, but now in general I'm almost never feel as hungry as I used to when I ate more carbs. Still, it's a hard diet to get used to and to stick with, even for me--and I feel sick when I eat sugar.
Hey, Stacey. I'm having trouble losing weight. Although you seem like the naturally thin type (which makes me resent you a little), I was wondering if you had any theories as to what is the best way to get in shape.
Hi Liam. I'm so, so glad you asked! Boy, do I have theories. I'm not exactly naturally thin, I'm sort of naturally average, but in the past three or four years I've lost about 25 pounds and now I am thin. You can't do it exactly the way I did it because I have weird, non-dangerous stomach problems--I know that's disgusting, but really it is my stomach and I'm not using that as a euphemism for my intestines, okay? Because of this, I've read dozens of books about food and diet and learned that almost all the information we have about food and diet is made-up bullshit. I know, I know, now I sound like the crazy Scientology person but really, it is, and I will provide references.
So here's what I recommend you do to lose weight: eat as much as you want of anything BUT really, really never eat: sugar, grains, potatoes and their pals, beer, fruit juice, and don't eat anything after 8 at night. Corn is a grain. Go easy on the booze and try to eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables. This will seem weird and uncivilized for a while--especially not eating bread--but then it won't seem so strange, and no one will even notice if you don't tell them. You must eat fat. Don't skip this step and don't listen to anyone who yells at you when you dump butter on your spinach. Eat as much as you want but obviously try to eat natural fats and not trans fat. Because I'm on this diet for health reasons, not weight reasons, I try to eat them in their descending order of healthfulness, which I've decided is: fish fat, coconut oil, butter, animal fat, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, whatever else.
Okay, now this is even weirder but truly don't get into a hardcore aerobic exercise program because it will make you hungry and therefore unhappy and eventually your knees will start to hurt. Resistance training is better than rampant aerobic training. You'll look and feel better. I'm nuts, sure, but my BMI is 18.8 and I promise this won't make you have a heart attack. Also, you won't be hungry after you adjust. The bad news is that when you first cut out sugar and grains you'll probably go insane. It's temporary, maybe for three weeks...or longer, especially if you've been eating a low fat, high-grain diet for a while. It's easier to ease into it if you first cut out sugar for a couple of weeks, then cut out the grains.
For references read Good Calories, Bad Calories by the fantastic science writer Gary Taubes. If you really do this and it works, please let me know.