If you haven’t noticed, we spend a lot of time thinking about literature here in the Flavorpill offices, digging through its past, weighing its current state, and imagining its future. Take a look at our bookshelves and you’ll find us reading everything from Nobel Prize winners to age-old classics to paperbacks printed at the bookstore down the street. Call it Chick-Lit, Hysterical Realism, Ethnic-Lit, or Translit — if it’s good fiction, we’ll be talking about it. So this summer, we’re launching The Future of American Fiction: an interview series expanding on that endless conversation about books we love, and yes, the direction of American fiction, from the people who’d know. Every Tuesday from now through August, we’ll bring you a short interview with one of the writers we think is instrumental in defining that direction.
This week we spoke with Alison Espach, whose debut novel The Adults is the defining novel for recovering debutantes from Connecticut. The novel is narrated by Emily, a high school freshman, who grows up in the privileged world of investment bank commuters and desperate housewives. Her padded life suddenly unravels when she wakes early one morning after a sleepover, and looks out her kitchen window to witness her neighbor’s suicide. Meanwhile, her classmates provide anything but comfort (i.e. The fat girl in class gets nicknamed ABOB, which stands for “Annie The Bird or Bear” because nobody can decide if her nose makes her a bird, or if her fat makes her a bear). Satire, obviously. But amidst the byzantine cruelty only privileged high schoolers are capable of, grace is found in the secret, illicit relationship that develops between Emily and her English teacher. Espach never excuses the relationship, but she never indicts it either. Amidst a world of cheese platters and art auctions, their relationship simply surfaces as something real while everything else in Emily’s world just seems sterilized. Espach joined us to talk about her novel, love and morality, and the thing we know as “white girl fiction.”
How would you describe the state of American fiction today? Is there anything you love or hate about it?
I love how many different places you can find fiction. You can find a daily dose on Five Chapters every morning. You can still find it printed in periodicals like The New Yorker, Harper’s. You can find it in 140 characters on Twitter. You can find it on individual author blogs. You can find it through small university presses, in strange and eclectic literary magazines. And I’ll stop there, because this is starting to sound like Oh, The Places You’ll Go.
I hate the increasing need for an established platform before you sell your first book. I hate how it’s much easier to sell a book if you have 20,000 blog followers than if you don’t.
Full interview at Flavorpill