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Q and A

Mar 30, 2015; Sam H. Asks:

(note: I grouped the three questions below together since they're all about the same thing.)

Sam H: Is the Minimalist a love story? Also what do you mean when you say,"I was no longer picturing blue. Blue was picturing me."

Goldfish: Stacey, I read "The Minimalist" quite recently and have a couple of questions regarding the literary piece: 1) Despite the woman saying she doesn't believe in minimalism, do you think she is still a minimalist? 2) Is "The Minimalist" written as an example of literary minimalism? 3) What's the weirdest interpretation of "The Minimalist" that you have received? Do you think "The Minimalist" is heavily open to interpretation? 4) Can you elaborate a bit on the concepts behind "The Minimalist"? Thank you!!! -- G G.

Whitney: We are discussing your story The Minimalist in class. I have a question. Why does the artist go through the transition from blue to something completely different? Does it have a different meaning about identity and loneliness?

Stacey answers:

These are good questions to pose to a class of students reading this story. In fact, I emailed your teacher and told her she was doing a good job. Internet mischievousness cuts both ways, after all: you can ask me questions to try to avoid your homework, and I can search syllabuses and find out who’s teaching that story this semester.

Jan 08, 2015; Anthony Payne Asks:

Hi Stacey, Did you hear the recent announcement that Haruki Murakami will be starting a writing advice column? I've left the URL to a short web article on the matter below. I wonder if you, long-tenured advice columnist, have any advice for novice Haruki Murakami. I bet you do. Thanks!

Stacey answers:

It's up and it's in Japanese! I would tell him to learn English. I'd also advise him to remember that while it's just as easy to try to screw up people's lives as it is to try to help them, trying to screw things up is more fun for the following reasons:

1. People hate sensible advice and loathe sensible advice-givers. People hate advice in general, true, but there's nothing more galling than hearing what you already know from a fussy, tight-laced pollyanna bearing down on you with a platter of sensible, golden scruples with your name engraved on them.

2. It's fun to have an evil plan. We all have one anyway, why not just come out with it? (Murakami probably knows this already--he's a big Jungian shadow guy, as demonstrated in IQ84.)

3. There’s no such thing as good advice.

Dec 19, 2014; Medicine Manatee Asks:

Curious about a definitional clarification. Maybe you can assist. If a person has sexual relations with a conjoined twin, does that constitute a menage a trois? I only ask because I am not well-versed in French. At the very least you present yourself as having a French outlook and I presume you can shed light on this vexing question. As always, merci.

Stacey answers:

Yes and no. According to my sources, ménage à trois translates to “household of three,” and indicates a domestic arrangement involving romance, sex, or both. So if you have congress with a conjoined twin—one or both—a few times, it wouldn’t count as a ménage à trois, since you’re not setting up a household. But if the relationship is intense or long term—even without living together—it would qualify if we allow the “household” to be metaphorical, the house of the heart.

Ah, but what if one twin doesn’t want to participate in the relationship? That’s an interesting question. What if they’re conjoined at the foot and can do things in different rooms? What if you’re involved with Abigail of the Abigail and Brittany Hansel pair, and whenever you and Abby do it Brittany goes to sleep? I’d say both cases still constitute ménages à trois. Though only one of the twins is doing the love, the other would always be present while the lovers were having sex, even if she didn’t assist. While the unloved twin might not like this, there’s nothing inherent in the term ménage à trois to imply that it’s a pleasing arrangement for the parties involved. I’m sure it’s not unusual for ménages to be full of bitterness and end badly.

Dec 19, 2014; Scobbard Murcholomey Asks:

(1) If you only could eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, what vegetable would you eat for the rest of your life? (2) How would you prepare it? (3) If you had the option to change its color to some other color than its natural color, what color would you like it to be? I would appreciate a timely response to these questions.

Stacey answers:

I wish I could answer avocado, but the avocado is a fruit, more specifically a singled-seeded berry (I just learned). So I will choose cauliflower. Life without lettuce will be hard, but I'm going with cauliflower. I would change its color to yellow. I would almost always prepare it as a hot mash. Like this:

Cut up 1 large cauliflower and steam it until very soft. While still hot, put it in a food processor with 1/4 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and whatever other hard cheese you have moldering in the refrigerator that you want to get rid of. Pulse until smooth. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (this is very important), salt, freshly ground pepper, and some green herbs if you have them (last night I used parsley and oregano from the yard). Run the food processor until the vegetable is smooth, like mashed potatoes. This is where you can stop and appreciate the bright yellow pop of color. If it seems chunky, you can add a little more cream; you can also add anything else that seems like it might be good in there, like a clove of garlic or a squirt of Worcestershire sauce. Serve and eat.

Dec 04, 2014; Frappucheeto Asks:

Hello, I am Frappucheeto. Stacey Richter, how do you stay sane in an insane world? Since you won't be able to answer that question, do you have any recent recipes to share? I like to make butternut squash.

Stacey answers:

What makes you think I'm sane? Heavens.

Oh, okay. I see. Ah ha! You pretty much have my number there.

Here's how to make guacamole. The trick is to use fresh lemon juice. Don't use lime juice. You might as well just grind up some dirt and throw it in there--lime juice ruins it. Mash up an avocado or two--they should be soft and all bright green on the inside with no brown; brown tastes bad--then add lemon juice, salt, cilantro, and minced jalepeno peppers to taste. You can add a little minced onion if you want, but it is not necessary, you who are Frappucheeto. Don't put hot sauce in it or tomatoes. They make it look brown and barfy and it will taste less good. Chips are optional. Spoons work.

Nov 20, 2014; JP Asks:

Hi Stacey! I'm covering a few of your stories for a group discussion at school, and I just wanted to know if you would identify yourself as a feminist! Love your work.

Stacey answers:


Oct 30, 2014; Rational Man Asks:

I'd like to run something by your Q&A format. I've started dating a woman and we have sparks. I enjoy the flirting and am experiencing 'high' feelings that pull me outside of my mundane self. I would like to pursue this attraction to see where it goes. However... I consider myself a rational-minded individual. She, alas, is deeply involved in subjects such as astrology and mysticism. She speaks of the 'divine feminine' and 'divine masculine,' says she is an 'old soul,' and has already done my zodiac chart (turns out we are compatible). I tried to talk to her about 'confirmation bias' and my appreciation for science and empiricism, but I might as well have been speaking Swahili. She is devoted to her chi energies and Power of Positive Thinking. I admit there is some intrigue there, in that she approaches life itself with an enthusiastically meaningful perspective that is alien to my negative, matter-of-fact mindset. Is there any hope for us? I am open to her more spiritual approach to life, but admittedly I think Astrology is nonsense. I worry my hormones and the thrill of attraction has overtaken my mind. Would love to know your thoughts.

Stacey answers:

Yeah. This is not going to work out, but I think you’re going to have to see it through. It doesn’t sound like you’re ready to walk away, and maybe there’s a little hope. She sounds like a nice, positive person, and I’m impressed that you’re treating her cockamamie beliefs with interest and respect; that’s very humane of you. I couldn’t do it, but I’m a self-righteous know-it-all who would never be attracted to a woo woo guy. But woo chicks tend to outnumber the guys, and I trust that she’s hot. So here’s a plan: why don’t you see if you can respect other’s differences, treat the whole thing lightly, and talk about other things as much as possible?

And when you’re not talking about other things, maybe you can try to view her convictions as metaphors. If you frame it this way, you might see that she’s using screwball terms to try to express something universal. Regarding her opinions as metaphorical declaws them; it opens up the possibility that there may be a sweet, fanciful side to her patter that might appeal even to a rational man. Though of course astrology is bullshit, it must be flattering to hear that your charts align; who wouldn’t want their romance to be written in the stars? Or be the universal masculine to a doll’s universal feminine? You don’t have to be New Age to think like this. You just have to be a romantic.

If you want to be a good guy, the most important part of this is to tell her what you’re thinking. Don’t try to get her to agree with you, oh no—that will go on forever. Just tell her you have respect for her way of seeing the world, but you think of this stuff as metaphorical, not factual. Agree to disagree and leave it to the side. Keep changing the subject. Tease her a little. You can be Scully and she can be Mulder. And get her into the bed. If your stars align, then the earth should move, right? You’ve gotta test that. Empirically.

Oct 27, 2014; Chrystalynn Asks:

Stacey, thank you for having this forum. I was wondering if you have comments on the controversy about Goodreads with the author who stalked a person who gave a very mean review. Also did you know the man Edward Champion who went overboard criticizing New York authors and lost his shit on Twitter? What do you think of Twitter and social media and people who lose their shit on their smartphones or tablets? I think they are probably driving and having road rage and taking it out on their mobile devices. OK thank you.

Stacey answers:

Such an interesting question, Chrystalynn! I hadn’t been following those stories but found them fascinating. Both are about vitriolic book bloggers, and both are spiked with the unmistakable (and nauseating) tang of high school social life—the feeling of something very small being made very large in other people’s brains. The Goodreads controversy concerns YA author Kathleen Hale, who published an article in The Guardian about “her efforts to monitor, stalk, and ultimately unmask a pseudonymous book blogger who trashed her debut novel on a review site.” I have to admit I found the idea of this darkly funny at first. I’m sure every author who’s gotten a shitty review on the internet—and that’s every author—could relate to my shiver of appreciation. But when I read the story, I saw she hadn’t entered into this project in the irreverent, performance-art way I half-imagined. Instead, she’d earnestly harassed some poor woman who’d posted a disparaging review of her book. This article gives a fairly balanced account of what happened.

Being stalked is not good. To be the object of someone’s intense, off-kilter energy can be quite scary, especially for women. I tried to imagine posting a negative review and then finding the author on my doorstep—what a nightmare. I was a little stunned, then, that Hale had her article published by The Guardian, both because it contained things that seemed untrue and because it described borderline criminal behavior—though weirdly, those two things kind of cancel each other out. (She claims she went to the reviewers house, stood on her doorstep, then had a sudden change of heart/deep insight and left without ringing the bell; this is exactly the kind of nonevent characters in books are prone to do/not do, especially characters in YA books. In real life, you ring the bell. Or you stay home.)

The other guy, Ed Champion, seems more like your average troll; I have no idea why anyone pays attention to him. Can’t we just ignore him? Aren’t we just encouraging him? I also have no idea why Kathleen Hale didn’t just ignore the nasty review. I’m sure it was mean, but being mean is a custom on the internet. It’s not exactly a shock. It happens often enough for someone to post this delightful list of unacceptable names for Goodreads shelves:






And I thought the worst part about being a writer was that no one pays any attention to your books!

These are not the people who get into road rage incidents—that’s exactly what they are not. Road rage is acting out in the real world, with real dangers and eyes and consequences. These people are acting out on the internet, which is not to be confused with an actual space of social interaction. The internet is a costume ball, and it’s a grave misreckoning to believe that anyone in a gown and slippers is a princess. You have to be kind of unbalanced to take it to heart. I mean, lighten up. Come on. Abusive-attention-whore-author? That would be so awesome printed on a T-shirt!

Oct 23, 2014; Bill G Asks:

Stacey Richter, good evening. I just finished reading your story, "An Inn That Cannot Really Exist," linked from your 'Stories on the Web' section, and located on the Spork website. I cannot make heads or tails of this story. Is it an extended metaphor? Perhaps you would wish not to explain yourself, but if another reader here could clue me in, or provide a Cliff's Notes or Spark Notes explanation of the tale, I would find it helpful. Best wishes, Bill.

Stacey answers:

The story was inspired by this fascinating news story about wolves preying on children in India. I was struck by how the local villagers reacted with violence, not only against wolves but against humans they perceived as being aligned with the wolves. Thus, they amplified the tragedy: 33 children were eaten by wolves and 20 people were killed under the suspicion of being werewolves. Or perhaps the lynching worked and they controlled the tragedy, in reality or in some other realm. This was in 1996.

The article may not clear things up for you completely. The story is dreamlike and idiosyncratic and requires the reader to enter a very weird world at very short notice. So I’ll give you a few of my thoughts with the caveat that I may not be right—writing is sort of like dreaming while remaining awake, and the author doesn’t automatically see the best or truest meaning. What I notice when I read it now is a lot of swapping of the human and the animal and a lot of interleaving of the real and the fabled. The hybridization of those ideas seem to be at the heart of the story. Or, from another angle, I like the way it vibrates alongside this line from a poem by Richard Siken : “Can we love nature for what it/really is: predatory?”

Oct 22, 2014; Not Fuck Mulligan Asks:

I was reading your Q&A and wanted to see what is up with your fancy fans. Then I saw Fuck Mulligan and thought to myself, "Fuck Fuck Mulligan." Fuck that fucker. He's a fucking fuck of a fuckhead cowardly fuck-o. With that out of my system, I want to ask, Dearest Stacey, what are some hobbies and activities that you have enjoyed most over the past couple years? Say you have downtime, no internet access, no writing paper or books: Then what? Do you do macrame? Henna tattoos? Do you restore vintage car engines with degreasing solvents? Do you balance rocks atop rocks? Do you practice speaking Esperanto? Do you sit in a bathtub full of cottage cheese and peach slices? Do you pick nits out of the hair of Craigslist casual encounter-ers? Do you float in a sensory deprivation chamber and try to past-life regress or center your chi energies or just go nudie? Can you touch your elbows behind your back? Do you do the chicken walk? Do you count the rosary with your toes? Do you grow pretty flowers? Do you play the ukelele? Do you paint your face like Paul Stanley from KISS and then run down the city street quacking and then yelling "Potato pancakes!"?

How do you keep busy when you are so busy and free to have free time when you aren't busy enough to stay free on the freedom train of business and busy bee with busy beavers freely freezing on your Bea Arthur floppy dimple chimpanzee snort crackle tim-tam eggplant Noxzema salamander coconut banana klaag vibrating pansy hocus stimplevisionary conquest milk dud hobo joe scrump konker elephant headcheese mucus wagon bildungsroman siemprevirens matador tonsillectomy pork sausage pimple cream dalmation hiccup snap dragon Telluride mitochondria plebian crepuscular geometrid varmint coxswain zither lapidoptera fomenting draconian cornnuts of coccidioidomycosis?

Hey Stacey, hey Stacey, hey Stacey, hey Stacey Richeter, Hey Stacey Richter, hey Stacey Richter, Hey Stacey Richter. You are Stacey Richter. I am micko bick flichtner. Ha ha you are Richter Snickter. I am pook muggin tick-tock mcBock-Bock! You are Stacey Richter spoogin! I am your noogin! I am your noogin! But not really.

Hi Stacey Richter. Tell me something else. Do you have a new book or story? I want to read your stories. I like your minimalism and I like your maximalism. I like your primitivism. I like your yarns and your stream-of-conscience. I like your Reliable Narrator who always remembers to walk the dog. Very reliable. I like your postmodernism, but what I really really like is your antepostmodernism and your postantetraditionalism mixed together in a "word stew." You do not write a word salad. You make a word cake. Yum.

Stacey Richter I am signing off. Thank you for the friendship and the answers and the BOOOOP!!!

Stacey answers:

Hello, Not Fuck Mulligan. Thank you right back at you for your own BOOOOP!!!! You got a lot and it's lovely and it can't be separated out by pouring it back and forth in an eggshell. Yes, I have hobbies! Holy fuck do I have hobbies. I make clothing out of pieces of fabric that I cut out with scissors. I made this skirt and cape from vintage sewing patterns.  photo littlecape_zps3c9b51d6.jpg

I make things--cosas in Spanish--out of paper with my paper-cutting machine. Usually I make cut-outs of a bicycle delivery girl. She has to deliver many different things: rats, fire, the top half of a horse.  photo littleratgirl_zps4e777cf8.jpg

I do garden. I made this puppy planter out of a pull toy using a drill, dirt, and an unrooted succulent leaf. Now it won't come out! (When you try this at home, be aware that drilling the daylights out of a hunk of wood creates a lot of heat, as in fire-level).  photo littlepuppy_zps94913590.jpg

All of these hobbies are extremely annoying to this annoyed creature, who believes that all of my time should be spent on feline hobbies such as sparkle rat, spa treatment, dispensing kitty crack, or looking at her food bowl with her. Is it still there? Is it still there? Is it?  photo smallannoyed_zpsd85e213b.jpg


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