Curtis Sittenfeld's New Novel Brings Her From Prep to Politics


I guess. Today is the author of the Sunday Times Bestseller American wife in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl a thinly disguised Laura Bush who found herself married to a president. It was long listed for the Orange Prize. As was her debut novel. Prep her other books. Include the man of my dreams sustained eligible and the acclaimed short story collection. You think it I'll say it. Her stories of appeared in the New Yorker Esquire Oprah magazine and The New York Times magazine her latest collection of stories to be published in the UK is help yourself. She's also the guest editor for the Twenty Twenty Best American short stories anthology. She lives with her family in the American Midwest. A brand new novel is rotten. And it's been described as bombshell while I couldn't agree more. This is a book that will demand. Attention Curtis Sitton fell. Welcome to meet the rices. Thank you for having me. You'll novel begins in one thousand nine hundred thousand nine. Is Hillary Rodham Graduates College? And it brings us right up-to-date in Contemporary America. But I'd like to go back to Cincinnati in one thousand nine hundred seventy five when when you were can you tell us about the second stance surrounding you alive? Oh my goodness it's funny. I'm so much in the habit of of talking about Hillary's lay right now. You'll warm familiar with that than with my own will. I'm the second of four children. I have a sister. Who's less than two years older than I am. And I would say a have not led a very personally dramatic life which might be why I'm a fiction writer instead of a memoir rest but yeah I grew up in Cincinnati. My parents are both retired but still live in Cincinnati and I have two sisters one brother my brother is actually holds elected office in Cincinnati. He's the he's a member of the city council in his third term. So so I guess. Different members of my family are interested in in politics in in different ways but I was very lucky to go to excellent schools in Cincinnati elsewhere. And I would say my family Sort of obsessive readers like we didn't it's not like we. All six sat around each of US feverishly reading a book of our own but there were lots of books in the House. We did sometimes read is a family. My mother was a librarian for a long time for you know middle school or junior high students so ages twelve and thirteen and fourteen and that strong feminist streak. That comes to your writing that being influenced by her. That's an interesting question. My parents have almost opposite personalities. From each other where. My father is very great Gary in very opinionated and my mother is you know I think she has strong opinions and viewpoints. But she's. She's not a very assertive per cent. And she's not she's not she's a very private person even even by saying this should not be. I think she'd rather that like I never talk about her. Other than you know maybe acknowledging that she exists described as relatively progressive. But you know I think there are some families where the children grow up going to protest rallies in that was not my family You'll schooling was obviously a hugely influential. In fact your first book prep which is I. Think long list for the Orange Prize loosely based on that. Would you say so? I went to a boarding school in Massachusetts. When I was I had just turned fourteen and it was sort of strange given you know the area of the country where I grew up. Which is the mid west and it was a little bit unusual to go to a sort of fancier elite boarding school on the east coast just in the sense that a lot of students who go to that school are more from that region and also the other thing is that. I was the only one of my siblings who went which I think sometimes makes people think that I must have been the most academically talented in fact. I was the least academically and by my siblings. Were all you know much more. Well rounded students like. I did well in English but I definitely struggled with other subjects so those a little bit. I feel like I certainly. It was privileged but it was also a little bit random or arbitrary that I went to boarding school and talking about coming from a different at least geographical background from the rest of the students. The story is sort of more than coming of age. It's it's more perhaps one could say it was about a study of of social class. Was that something that you found was very apparent there that it did feel different. This whole kind of I mean I think the thing that we all have this horror of being a teenager comes across in dairy well a particular field and that you didn't fit in that. I think I felt at times that I didn't fit in. Certainly I mean I would say that. It wasn't the main character in prep. Leave your experiences going to boarding school as more of a sort of class shock than I would say I did. And you know class is sort of the air. We all breathe. It's maybe especially obvious. Una Boarding School campus. But you know I think it's it's obvious everywhere you know. You can have a sort of exchange with a person like delivering a package to your house and the two of you could probably like assess each other's voices are accents and no things about each other's class or like defied that one of you is in a house receiving a package one of US delivering. The package also says things about class in our society. You know doesn't necessarily say very good things but I think the To like one yet like I was aware of class. And I don't think I was quite as much of a fish out of water as my protagonist. Although certainly I'm like erotic person was even more neurotic as a teenage you write about teenagehood again in in your next book. And I think we'll come back to that because it will say impacts on on the subject matter of Rodham but you went off to Stanford then and you studied creative writing night. You wrote the College newspaper. You registered magazine. What's being a writer? Always the the obvious career choice. Well I think writing was always really important to me and it was like from a very young age for about six or seven. I spent a lot of time reading and writing because I wanted to. I think it helped me make sense of the world and it held my attention and there weren't as many options on net. Netflix back. Then so entertain yourself a little more so definitely writing always played a huge role in my life. I don't think I grew up with the expectation that I would be a full time novelist. I think sometimes I thought I won't be a lawyer or as I got older. I thought you know maybe a social worker or an English teacher or something. I always the closer my adulthood. I think the more it seems like I would do something writing adjacent. But I just don't think anyone can count on being a fulltime writer as you know how they pay their mortgage and I mean going to someone as you did to study at the Iowa. Writer's workshop is no guarantee of coming out. The other end is a fully-fledged writer. But that does give you a better chance than most doesn't it's a huge success rate. It's a it's a wonderful program and I like I loved being there. I learned a ton but the the thing that people don't necessarily realize is not only. Can you go to an excellent writing program the Iraqis and after that you know not have a stable writing career you can be a writer who has had multiple books published in that. Still not the way. You're supporting yourself. And in fact new writing is my full time job. But that's that's an incredible privilege and it's not. It's not something I take for granted. It's very I know that it's very unusual on special. I feel

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