An Interview About Life and Writing with Author Leslie Jamison - The Gloss Magazine

An Interview About Life and Writing with Author Leslie Jamison

Based in New York, novelist, essayist and bestselling author Leslie Jamison published her latest memoir Splinters this month. She talks to Edel Coffey …

Leslie Jamison is an American novelist and essayist. She is a New York Times bestselling author of the essay collections, The Empathy Exams and Make It Scream, Make It Burn; the critical memoir, The Recovering, and the novel, The Gin Closet. She has written for the New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Harper’s among other publications. She teaches on Columbia University’s MFA programme in New York. Her latest memoir, Splinters, is published by Granta this month. She lives in New York.

On home I live in a neighbourhood called Greenpoint, right on the East River at the northern tip of Brooklyn. It has some old industrial parts, so there’s still the Polish watchmaker with his little shop tucked into the corner of the laundromat but it’s also a gentrified neighbourhood so there’s trendy Spanish tinned-fish restaurants, and mocktails aplenty. I have been living in New York for a decade.

On family I have been really blessed in my family. I have complicated relationships with some, but very good relationships with almost everybody in my family. My mom has always been my rock and my primary parent. My dad travelled a lot and then they split up and I lived with my mom. With my father I felt the grace of adulthood as a space where you can really strengthen a bond with a parent. I’ve felt like my dad and I have been able to build something really special as I’ve got older and I appreciate that.

On roots My mom is Canadian and her parents were Scottish immigrants – her grandparents came over from Scotland. My dad is from the Midwest and one strand on my dad’s side goes back to the Mayflower, so there are some original deep American roots. What does it mean to claim that? Some complicated feelings. I think I’ve been shaped by identification with America, but it’s not uncommon to feel a sense of deep shame, questioning, and scepticism alongside a sense of commitment.

On my desk For so many years, in a series of small cramped New York apartments, I had no desk, so having any kind of desk now feels like a real privilege. I look out at trees and my neighbour’s storage shed with a Mr Potato Head in the window. Right now I’m working on a piece about gaslighting for The New Yorker, so I have books on gaslighting on my desk, and a novel I’m working on taps into Greek mythology so I also have Greek mythology books.

On writing These days, I have a slightly more orderly process than I used to. I used to be a more romantic, impulsive writer. I would drive to a truck stop in the middle of cornfields in the dead of night and sit in the diner with a huge thing of coffee and just write and write and write. But now I teach on Mondays and Tuesdays at Columbia, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the days I try to write.

On success To me, the most important form of success is being able to build a life where there is time and space to write. Also, hearing from readers.

On bookshops I love bookshops. They feel like temples. There are so many New York bookstores that I love – McNally Jackson, Greenlight – but I think my favourite is probably Community Bookstore in Park Slope, my old neighbourhood. It’s a magical little shop with a garden in the back with a turtle who lives there. It’s also the first bookstore I took my daughter to so it’s a special space where I am passing on this inheritance that has meant so much to me.

Leslie Jamison’s Splinters, is published by Granta.


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