Darcey Steinke, of Lefferts Gardens, is the author of the novels Up Through the Water, Suicide Blonde, Jesus Saves and Milk, and the memoirEaster Everywhere. She’s also written nonfiction pieces on Kurt Cobain, David Koresh, and more; she reads tonight at Freerange Nonfiction, at Pianos.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
The thing that helped me the most was when the writer Barry Hannah told me all my work was about Motherlessness. My work tends to always draw toward the themes of divinity versus glamour, the material world versus the spiritual one. My mother was a beauty queen and my father a minister so I come by it honestly.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I just read Jonathan Dee’s The Privileges and it was very good. A sort of Great Gatsby for our time. I also love Bluete by Maggie Nelson and Tom McCarthy, the author of C, just came to the class I teach at The New School, he was very inspirational. I love PJ Harvey and her new record is good. Also anything by Trungpa. I just read Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and it sort of blew my mind. I am very excited that the Feelies are back together!
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I am not that interested in celebrity culture. I find it dull. I know this makes me sound like a square, but I wish people would self invest a bit more, develop their own inner life rather then getting hooked on celebrity gossip which is usually just sad and pathetic.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Oh yeah. Just before my first book came out I was living in San Fransicso eating ramen noodles every single night! I was a writer and a waitress till I was 30. But I have never been really poor. Thomas Merton said the first thing you can do to help the poor is to stop pretending you are one of them. I don’t really think you need that much money to be happy though. I mean you do need a baseline or you are too anxious about food and rent to get much writing done, but you don’t need so much really.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
I love to hear from my readers. I do on Facebook some and I still get e-mails and letters sometimes. The encounter that stays with me most was this one time I was coming out of teaching a class at the New School in the West Village and it was raining really hard and there was this lovely creature waiting for me, standing out on the sidewalk, under a huge umbrella, he was very thin in platform shoes and he was dressed sort of like David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days, he came running up to me and told me that my novel Suicide Blonde had changed his life. He was so sweet and effusive, he had glitter all over his face and a tiny sequin tear glued under one of his eyes.
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
It’s very hard for me to go back and read my old books. I mean each of them sort of seems like a history of all my issues in the years I wrote them. I can feel my self in the prose trying to work a sort of darkness out of me. But I can’t say I would take them back. Its like time itself, you can’t rewind.