Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Alexandra Kleeman

Alexandra Kleeman's new novel is You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine.

From her Q & A with Corinne Gould for Late Night Library:

CG: One of the things that is so arresting about your novel is the absolute strangeness of the story world. Literary dystopia is now ubiquitous among American bestsellers, making the genre crowded and stale. One of the things that sets You Too Can Have a Body like Mine apart is the emphasis on internal and relational conflict. Rather than an oppressive government serving as the villainous entity, television commercials for Kandy Kakes, celebrity-endorsed fliers for veal cutlets, and the enticing pamphlets of the Church of the Conjoined Eaters cult draw the characters into their habitual destruction (seemingly) by their own volition. Can you speak to what it means for the damaging and cyclical behaviors to be products of choice?

AK: I think it’s interesting that so many dystopian novels put a governmental entity at the center of the problem—it seems like an almost nostalgic fear, the stuff of classic post-war dystopias like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. They’re clear, authoritarian, and never as slippery as I feel a real dystopia would be. In this novel I wanted to depict a decentralized dystopia, a dystopia of choice that arises from being forced to choose between two inadequate options.

Choice is not the same thing as agency, though it can feel like it is when orchestrated correctly: you can choose to buy an Vitamin Water instead of a Coke and feel good about yourself thinking that the water will be better for you, but there are 33 grams of sugar in a Vitamin Water, and the company is still owned by Coca Cola. Choosing is part of our national identity (and we believe that we have more access to choices than other countries, hence those “In Soviet Russia” jokes—“In Soviet Russia, Coke drinks you!”), but there are so many decoy alternatives and false opposites that it’s difficult to escape that thing that you tried not to choose.

What sort of agency is there for someone who is choosing not to choose? Choosing an unnamed option, I suppose...[read on]
Visit Alexandra Kleeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue