Amy Bloom is the author of two novels, three collections of short stories, and a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. Her most recent novel, Away, was an epic story about a Russian immigrant. Her new collection of short stories, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, just came out. She lives in Connecticut and taught at Yale University for the last decade. She is now Wesleyan University’s Writer-in-Residence.
She met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about pathology and fiction.
Do you think love is a danger to people who do not understand themselves?
I think love is a high risk venture for everybody. I think marriage for people who don’t know themselves is particularly unfortunate. Being unaware of your own true desires and emotional needs and personal history makes you a poor risk for anyone.
Would we be worse off in a world with no passion?
We are not built to have no passion. I imagine that even monks in far away monasteries have a passion for service, or a passion for prayer.
How much has your background as a social worker influenced the way you write?
I don’t think my training influenced the way I write but it has influenced my capacity to listen to people talk, to refrain from interrupting them, and to resist jumping to conclusions.
You have researched the professional lives of psychiatrists. In your TV series “State Of Mind” psychiatrist Lili Taylor finds her husband cheating on her with their marriage counsellor. How much did you want to show that practitioners of the profession are as vulnerable to the same problems that beset their patients?
Everybody in the world is vulnerable to the same set of problems.
What do you make of the E Book revolution?
I own a Kindle myself. I find it very convenient for reading while travelling. There is so much change in the world of books right now, e-books are only a fraction of this sea change. I think that the elimination of so many book stores, both the chains and the indies, the elimination of so many independent publishers and the change in the reading habits of people between 20 and 40 is all as significant as e-books, which makes purchase quick and easy.
Tell us about “Where The God Of Love Hangs Out”.
The God of Love Hangs Out specifically in a neighborhood bar in Meriden, CT, a rather unattractive dumpy town with a high crime rate, corrupt police force, and a bar for every drinker.
I think the best advice I ever gave to my young self is in an essay in The Letter Q, recently published by Scholastic. (further plug- edited by my daughter Sarah Moon)
How much pathology do you think stems from people falling prey to the manufacturing of gender as exercised by the media?
Gender is not manufactured by the media. Gender is a real thing, and everybody has only one. However, the nearly demented insistence on the pink, the sparkly, and pointless for little girls and the blue, the gray, and the big wheeled for little boys does not help anybody grow up to be a happier, healthier, more well rounded and empathetic human being. The anxiety that most cultures experience over what is feminine and what is masculine tends to make peoples lives more narrow and more miserable. It does not, however, cause issues of transsexualism.
What are you working on right now?
I am gearing up for whatever publicity there will be for my first children’s book Little Sweet Potato and I am in the weeds, writing a novel It Is Good We Are Dreaming.
How would you like to be remembered?
I think for me it is not a question of how, but by whom. I hope my friends and family who survive me, remember me with great affection. (And of course there will be that statue of me in Trafalgar Square.).
Find everything Amy Bloom on her website here.