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Q and A

Oct 24, 2008; Inspired by Asks:

Do you consider yourself a writer who uses magical realism in their stories or dirty realism?

Stacey answers:

I had to go to Wikipedia to look up dirty realism-what a great term! Like a dirty martini! I'd actually always heard that kind of writing referred to not as dirty realism but as minimalismó80ís era stripped down prose, often with working class characters, usually in realistic though heightened situations. Drinking is often involved. Though I really like a lot of dirty realismóitís hard to beat a Raymond Carver storyóI think the emphasis here is on the realism and Iím a really bad realistic writer. I simply donít have enough intellectual curiosity and simple love of the texture of everyday life to write about it at length. In a way, I donít even believe in everyday lifeóI mean, I believe it exists but I donít believe in it in a metaphysical way. Iím much more devoted to the idea that the world is a giant metaphor waiting to be gobbled up and digested by our minds, and that the reality inside our minds is much more interesting than the trappings of the objective world.

As for magic realism, I recently read a whole bunch of Garcia Marquez and man, I would totally join up if I could write like him. But honestly, Iíve never quite understood the term. I canít really tell the difference in reality levels between Garcia Marquez and Kafka and Isaac Bashevis Singer and Henry Jamesí ghost stories and Carl Jungís autobiography. As far as I can tell, fidelity to everyday life has never been a requirement of literature. Some of the most enduring storiesóBible stories, fairy tales, origin storiesóare totally strange, wild, and dreamlike. So I probably wouldnít use the term magic realism for my own writing. Iím not sure what term Iíd use. But one of the great things about not being an academic is that I am not obligated to use any terms at all.

Oct 20, 2008; Inspired by Asks:

How would you describe the humor in "Beauty Treatment" or "Cavemen in Hedges"?

Stacey answers:

You know, itís hard to describe humor. I think thatís kind of the essence of humoróit slips between the cracks in categories and logic, which is what allows it to be so subversive. In fact, itís so hard to describe humor that I can only think of a handful of adjectives commonly used to do soósatirical, slapstick, subversive, dark, and stupid. Can anyone think of any others? Scatological? Of those, Iíd pick dark to describe my writing because Iím sort of obsessed with the connection between funny and sad. But I think thereís also a bit of satire and slapstick, and whenever thereís slapstick thereís going to be stupid. Thatís everything but scatological, and I admit that I donít find poop funny. Well, maybe dog poop. And bird.

Oct 20, 2008; baby bird Asks:

what's the best way to get a guy to lose his inhibitions without him having to use any substances (i.e. alcohol.) i get drunk and he still doesn't try to rip my clothes off. i'd like this to happen without me having to TELL him to do it, and gosh, do i have to beg?! i think we're past the "taking it slow" there some kind of erotica I could read to help me figure out how to be sexier?!

Stacey answers:

I'm sure you're sexy enough, all drunk and waiting for him to rip your clothes off, jeez. And since you say you're past the "taking it slow" stage, I assume you've tried kissing him. That actually almost always works to get things going. If it doesn't, something else is probably going on--he's a dud, he's got a girlfriend, he's got a boyfriend, he lives with mom. But if you still really think further action is required, try this last ditch test: put on a sexy bra under your adorable top. Then, when he comes over, say, "Can I get a man's opinion on something?" Then take off your shirt and say, "Does this bra make my boobs look too big?" If he can't figure out how to take if from there, he's retarded.

Oct 11, 2008; which is better? Asks:

zombies, werewolves, vampires, robots, pirates, or ninjas? ...pretty please write me a bedtime story with 3 or more.

Stacey answers:

Sorry I haven't gotten to this. I'm thinking about it...but not that much. I'll try harder.

Sep 19, 2008; V.C. Asks:

Any words for David Foster Wallace?

Stacey answers:

Oh God, what a terribly sad thing! It's just wrenching to see someone with so much take themselves out of the world. I didn't really realize until he was gone that I was counting on him to be around--as someone to admire, amuse me, be jealous of, and make me angry. All which strike me as normal reactions to true talent. I wish he could have stayed.

Sep 03, 2008; just curious Asks:

Your thoughts on Sarah Palin?

Stacey answers:

She seems toxic, but I really don't know much about her.

Update: okay, now I know more and I'm afraid. I hate her political views but it's not that. I'm afraid because she isn't even a little bit qualified to be the vice president. And there seems to be some weird Republican swirl of rhetoric where her gender somehow gives her a pass to be stupid and smart at the same time. Somehow I don't think she'd get away with avoiding the press if she were a man. And is there some law now that politicians can't speak in full sentences? It's not that hard. Oh, I just remembered I had a bad dream about her last night. She wore a red suit.

Aug 26, 2008; Ellie Fonte Asks:

So - what are you reading lately that's good?

Stacey answers:

I'm reading The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, and I'm reading them twice, because I have two translations and I'm reading each, which is driving me crazy. Why am I doing this? Good question. At first I was bothered by one translation but now I'm bothered by both. The stories are weird and great and almost unbelievably violent, especially considering when they were written. I'm not going to recommend them exactly, because I don't quite understand them. I can't tell to what extent Babel was condemning violence, and to what extent he was celebrating it--like the Quentin Tarantino of his day. Maybe I'm just going to have to learn Russian.

But recently I read a couple of great Jim Shepard collections: Like You'd Understand Anyway and Love and Hydrogen. They're awesome, I loved them--they're strange and funny and addictive. They're sort of like boys adventure stories written by an extremely sensitive person. Those are really good.

Aug 07, 2008; V.L.L. Asks:

Okay...sooo what if there's this 6'2" muscley, piercing-eyed, sir-Lancelot-jawed Republican who pretty much looks like Jack from LOST, only better. And he most CERTAINLY makes your knees weak...buuuuut....he may be a lying, psycho cokehead who hates himself and his tiny, tiny penis. What then, Stacey Richter? What then? Oh yea...and I mean from a WRITERLY standpoint. Not a "moral" or "logical" or "responsible" standpoint.

Stacey answers:

Obviously you're destined to use him up then throw him out. As a writer, I advise you to jot down a few notes about the experience and, as always, to avoid tattoos with proper names.

Jul 30, 2008; My Name Asks:

What do you think about therapy, in general?

Stacey answers:

I think it can help with the craziness within, sometimes a lot, and is therefore a worthy endeavor. I sort of wish someone had told me a few things about therapy before I had therapy so I'll just take this chance to tell you, MN: real therapy, good therapy, can help you figure out how to deal with major shit in a clearer way, and it can help make you more of who you are, but unless you're a happy person to begin with, it won't make you happy. I don't know how I got this idea, but when I first went to therapy I thought it would turn me into some sort of cheerful, high-powered, baby-producing executive lady in a smart suit who loved small talk, precious moments, bridesmaid dresses, and meetings. That's how fucked up I was--I thought it would make me into a robot. Now I know I am destined to be morose, bitter, bossy and lazy, but I no longer date junkies and befriend psychopaths, and I don't even want to.

And another thing, I think it matters who your therapist is, a lot, because it's basically an art. Ideally, it would be someone you can talk to openly (I'm a big advocate of telling one's therapist that their outfit/office/hairstyle gives you the creeps), who you suspect might be smarter than you, who doesn't talk more than you do during an appointment, who you feel an emotional connection with, who doesn't act like a friend or your mother. I think it's worth it to check out a few people first to see which one seems like the best.

I think you probably know if you need therapy or not, but if for some reason you're not sure, or if you can't afford it, there are other routes to self-knowledge. I love the discussion in Julie Hecht's book Was This Man a Genius? about how Transcendental Meditation changed Andy Kaufman from a strange, angry eccentric into a brilliant comedian. But he had to sit and chant his mantra for an hour a day. Still--Andy Kaufman!

Jul 27, 2008; very liberal lady Asks:

Should I bother trying to date a Republican?

Stacey answers:

Only if you think he's really hot, like he makes your knees weak. Otherwise he'll drive you crazy in a bad way.

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