“There’s a lot of male sexuality in this book, because I knew that if I was going to write about faith, I’d also have to write about the flesh—I think it would be dishonest to write about male adolescence without sexuality being an important component. So given my upbringing, that was the hardest part—it felt difficult, but necessary. When I was shopping the book around, one publisher told me he liked my book but wouldn’t be publishing it because female readers—the largest book-buying demographic—would find all the sexuality off-putting.”
“In the body’s own words, it cannot live like a vegetable in the country.” I am twenty-one and sitting on a bunk in a shotgun house in Mid-City, New Orleans, reading C.D. Wright. After a few conversations on the phone with a professor at the University of New Orleans, I have come here, weeks after graduating college, to help with an oral history project about the experiences of people who lived through Katrina.
“I do like that people read my writing as Southern and not just as that of a bland white person. But I feel like if you are a writer who’s Southern, your sensibilities should probably just be organic. I grew up poor in Florida—I have a very specific sort of family—and the characters in those stories are deeply embedded in my story, and in who I am. I feel like Southerners deal with different situations and circumstances than people in other parts of the world—we have such distinct issues with poverty and social issues that don’t get addressed because you’re dealing with crazy belief systems.”
“It took me ten years to figure out how to write funny the way I could talk funny. Doing improv or standup or making people laugh at a party or an open-mic night—that kind of humor came naturally to me, but writing funny was so hard. I struggled with that balance between seriousness and silliness—I didn’t want to write myself into a corner, where I could only be silly or lighthearted. I felt like there had to be a way to have a legitimate mind and still make readers laugh, to say earnestly true things, and not just ironically true things.”