Unconditional Love, Emily Gould Interviews Dodie Bellamy

By Harriet Staff

Hooray! Emily Gould has interviewed Dodie Bellamy at Emily Books, noting that Bellamy is making up for lost blogging time at belladodie (from which sprung the buddhist). Gould asks Bellamy about her blogging, which brings up The Letters of Mina Harker, a "project where I re-created this character of Mina (the heroine of Bram Stoker’s Dracula) as my own alternate personality, and Mina was sending letters to writer friends of mine"; as well as video artist Kathy Izzo; compartmentalizing projects; any negative reactions to making her relationship with the buddhist public; various rules for writing; and New Narrative:

DB: ...When I was younger I would write about personal experience in a way that was much more confrontational with the people I was writing about. I was raised in this writing world which they call “New Narrative,” where everyone was writing about each other. And people would WANT to be in each other’s books, and people would be really excited to be written about. So what do you do when you get outside that bubble and you get to the more normal situation where people are horrified to be written about?

One experience I’ve had, and that Kathy Acker would have as well, is that there would be these people who like the writing, usually guys, and they would think that by writing about me or Kathy in this way that is horrifyingly honest and then sending it to us would somehow make us happy. A friend of mine told me about Kathy receiving a letter from this one guy and just crying because it was so brutal.

EG: This is why I’m amazed when people who are serious committed Internet writers don’t know about New Narrative. It just seems so bloggy to me.

DB: One of the risks of doing the buddhist book and the blogging, given that I come out of this experimental intellectual writing realm, is that it was so straightforward. Being straightforward is sort of an embarrassment. Like, “you can’t do any more than that?” I had this critic inside me. The book I’m working on right now is more formally complex. I think on some level it was hard for me to believe that a book as straightforward as the buddhist could be of value.

They also chat about Bellamy's current project, The TV Sutras, and her feelings about Jonathan Franzen:

DB: ...I think I have some other projects going on and they’re pretty much going to take up the next couple of years of my life.

EG: You write about one of them in the book – The TV Sutras, your book about spiritual gurus.

DB: That will be out in 2013, so I plan to finish it by this summer. It’s a memoir but I’ve incorporated all this research and created characters, and hopefully what I will have is this first person that sometimes seems to be me and sometimes seems to not be me, and then you can’t tell if it’s me or not me. Which might be hopeful thinking on my part. I also have this novel that I haven’t finished, in which I was so careful to create characters with all sorts of fictional histories and traits. It became fun, making things up. Parts of the book were published in journals, and, despite all my efforts at fictionalizing, people read it as autobiography. It’s almost impossible when you’ve worked at a certain level of intimacy, people just assume it’s autobiography. It’s interesting, and it’s also really impressive when you find out something you assumed was autobiographical isn’t. That’s a genius writer, there.

EG: Did you ever read Freedom, by the way? You write about a strong reaction you had to an excerpt that was quoted in a review

DB: No! I’d rather shoot myself! Well, I’d probably be able to read a few chapters … that’s the way I am with most of those mainstream guys, and then I just can’t go on … and they’ll always be better than I expected, but I still can’t go on.

EG: I don’t know if you can lump him in with those mainstream guys. I think he’s playing the same game that everyone else is playing but just at a totally different level. And his stuff about women is distracting and irritating, but if you can’t read books by guys whose attitudes towards women are troubling then like you can’t read so many books!

Read the full interview here.

Originally Published: February 22nd, 2012