In 8: A Memoir, Amy Fusselman’s followup to her excellent first memoir The Pharmacist’s Mate, time, rather than moving in a linear fashion, takes the form of the figure eights the author used to skate when she was a kid. Events, for her, don’t just come and go. Instead, everything from Fusselman's experience in the backseat of a cab to the sexual abuse she suffered in her youth at the hands of her babysitter’s husband stays around, affects her in the present. All of this, of course, makes for a truly strange and chaotic narrative. But we're just happy anytime somebody shakes up a genre that too often bores us to death. What follows is a quick sampling of our Q&A with the author.
Q: Like your first memoir, 8 isn't your traditional kind of memoir. I was curious to hear how you pitched the idea to your editor.
A: Well I didn't. I presented it as a manuscript. I wrote it without having an idea of how it would be published or by whom.
Q: Did they like the manuscript as it was? Or did they have qualms with it?
A: I think the Counterpoint people liked it and when I decided that I would go with them, they wanted me to write more. I ended up writing the piece where I was kinda writing about my editor Amy, which came after the book itself was completed.
Q: Right. I wanted to ask about these sort of announced insertions. I don't believe I've seen very many writers pointing out what they added later in the process.
A: Yeah well I think it's hard to because so much is added. If you were to point out every single thing, it would be difficult. But I felt it was appropriate for this book because I was talking about going back, you know what it means to go back, about time and reexperiencing things.
Q: In 8, you are constantly jumping around from event to event without any real strict adherence to time as we know it conventionally to work. Do you think that people will take to, or rather, that they are even capable of reading a book that isn't linear?
A: I absolutely think that people are capable of reading all different kinds of books…I was interested in creating a work that was going to loop and whirl rather than march forward like a robot. Not like marching forward is always robotic…but it was just not what I wanted to do.
Q: There was a review of The Pharmacist's Mate in the Village Voice a few years ago, where the reviewer said some good things, but ultimately that it wasn't really a book. I've seen this kind of criticism of 8 as well, where people take issue with the experimental quality of the work. Could you speak to this criticism?
A: I don't know exactly what they would mean by that. Like is it because of the length? I know that some complained that The Pharmacist's Mate was only 86 pages. I think the length issue is funny, it just strikes me as very male. It's like, does it rock your world or not? I guess I'm coming out of poetry. I'm interested in the feel of it, not the length. This is perhaps a very feminine point of view…But with this book there's forty more pages. It's like that old saying, “how many licks does it take?” How many pages does it take to make a book?
Q: There's very little in the way of graphic detail of your experiences with your pedophile in the book. Any particular reason why that is?
A: There's a weird titillation with this stuff that I didn't wanna be part of. Also I don't think it's useful…It's not like I'm trying to convince people of how bad it was or to relive it. I think that that's where I was struggling. I was thinking about how I would like to write about this. The subject is so insanely fraught. I'm sure if I hadn't published the first book, nobody would've touched this…I wanted to bring a little light and air to this subject that is affecting like a gazillion people constantly.