Conducted by Jacklyn Attaway upon the publication of The Body Parts Shop in 2005.
I've been aware of FC2, or, as it used to be, the Fiction Collective, for as long as I've been writing. I've always been interested in unusual, innovative, and transgressive fiction. When Janice Eidus offered to sponsor my collection of stories, I was thrilled. I always felt FC2 is where I belong.
How would you describe publishing with FC2?
Compared to the more commercial publishers of my first two collections, it was heaven. No sales people weighing in, no spoiled editors. Just other experimental authors. And Ralph, and Brenda, and Carla. Everyone has been delightful to work with. I'm more realistic in my expectations.
You visited FSU Tallahassee for an FC2 reading at the Florida Literary Alliance Coalition (FLAC) Conference. What did you think of this experience?
I had a fantastic time at the FLAC Conference. It was well organized, and stimulating. And fun. My book was newly out so it felt very celebratory. It was great to spend some time with others from FC2, and meet some of those who worked so hard behind the scenes. It was a pleasure to meet some of the faculty of Florida State University, and some other small publishers in a more intimate setting than the horribly crowded AWP Conference.
I haven’t actually done the research, but I believe you’re the only woman to have published in both Ms. and Playboy. Traditionally, these two magazines have appealed to two different and distinct audiences. Can you tell me a little about you’re experience working with both of these publications?
My feminist consciousness appealed to Ms., as well as the open sexuality in my stories. At that time, it was new to read sexual material from a woman's point of view. I was even satirizing pornography in some of my stories. The Playboy editors were able to separate the feminism from the explicit sex. They enjoyed the anti-romantic explicitness. That I might have been satirizing porno didn't bother them as long as they got turned on. Later on, when the feminist movement got much more complex, splitting into a million groups, some of them becoming very politically correct, and with the advent of the group Women Against Pornography, I lost the support of a number of editors at Ms. Magazine. They weren't quite sure how to think about my writing anymore.
You were involved in the early feminist movement, and two stories, “Coming of Age” and “Interviewing Barbie,” focus on feminist perspectives then and now. Feminism has definitely changed from the early days. How do you feel about these changes and your realization of them?
Now that we're getting to questions about particular stories, I just want to say that these questions are much harder to answer. Some of the questions seem to require a literal response or explanation that feels only related to the stories, which are more about a multitude of connections, rather than about anything. Part of a poem called, "Guide To The Tokyo Subway," by Halvard Johnson (my husband), seems apt here: "meanings stretch out in all directions turn back, turn back on themselves on their central unmeaning." That said, I'll try my best. "Coming of Age," and "Interviewing Barbie," are both stories in which I tried to incorporate an enormous range of changing, complex, and often contradictory feminist issues. And how they affect some characters. If I could possibly answer your question here in less than 50 pages, I would. But one reason I write fiction rather than essays is that it's a much more fun way of dealing with complex and subtle issues.
One of my absolute favorite stories in your collection is “Lips.” I too am a wearer of red lipstick and remember the ritual (I share with the narrator) of locking myself in the bathroom to try on my mother’s lipsticks, moving my face close to the mirror to imagine what it’d be like for a boy to kiss me. Through details such as the narrator’s infatuation with lipstick, the mother’s tradition of applying lipstick before the father came home, and the history of lipstick and lipstick wearers, can one infer that the act of painting the lips (a yonic symbol) is a way of selling/ marketing female sexuality?
One could infer from "Lips," that the act of painting the lips is a way of marketing female sexuality. But what I wanted to do in that story was to play with the informational essay form within a short story. I also wanted to steal an article I enjoyed very much and to incorporate it into my own work. The material of the article was certainly intriguing to me. But I don't want to think too hard about why.
In “The Scalp Agency,” Carl, seeks to “correct” his hair loss. Of his baldness, Carl states, “[…] it was always such a big deal, as if baldness were a thing, like tits” (84). This comment amuses and intrigues me. Carl can’t stand to have focus placed on a part of his body, to be reduced to his baldness, and he’s semi-consciously aware of the same treatment men give women, to reduce them to their breasts. Do you think baldness, for Carl and possibly many other men, is a vulnerability and instance of physical exposure just as breasts are for women?
Yes. But because breasts are an actual sex symbol, and the top of the head isn't one (for most) it's a somewhat different issue. Though breast size, and baldness relate in that they are the focus of many appearance issues.
I’ve always felt that the dentist/ patient relationship is bit strange. It is very intrusive and intimate. For “Bowerbird,” the narrator ponders the private life of her dentist and imagines herself having a personal relationship with him outside of the dental chair. Do the professional relationships we forge with our doctors, caregivers, and personal groomers encourage us to either objectify our bodies or long for a more intimate relationship with the people with whom we are so professionally intimate?
I am fascinated by that weird professional/client relationship, like teacher/student, dentist/patient, doctor/patient, therapist/client, in which there's a lot of intimacy that can't be acknowledged. There are great possibilities to explore, fantasy or real. In "Bowerbird," I was also interested in the difference in class between the wealthy, dignified professional (the dentist) and the poor, overwrought single mother.
At first, I thought the speaker of
“The History of My Breasts” was a braggart; however,
as I read on, I found her to be a woman that learned to take pride
in her body. Originally, her breasts were a source of shame and
frustration, but she develops a great appreciation and love for
her body. I find myself recalling those girls of my high school
years who hid their voluptuous bodies beneath oversized t-shirts
and baggy jeans all to avoid negative attention. In the end, I am
saddened when she discovers that her “talent” is now
a commodity (breast implants) to be bought by and sold to anyone.
Is your narrator a depiction of the “modern” woman,
hailed and reviled for taking delight in her body while expressing
her own distaste (with her question: “How can people be satisfied
with a symbol, a representation of something?” (120)) for
society’s satisfaction with merely a symbol of woman?
Interview with Lynda Schor
Interview with Lynda Schor