Tabs open on your screen right now:
gmail; wikipedia entry for Port Henry, NY; google scholar search for Constance Penley’s “The White Trashing of Porn”; nuclearsecrecy.com (don’t do it); NY Times article on the London attack; recipe for jam cookies; netflix; The New Republic article entitled “The Case Against Dana Schutz” about the Emmett Till painting at the Whitney Biennial; NY Botanical Gardens Orchid Show ticket page; google search for synonyms for the word “figment”; google search for “how to know if you have a cavity.”
It’s pretty exciting over here as you can tell.
If you had to brag about yourself:
I’m really good at seeing faces in weird objects/surfaces. Apparently there is a word for it–– apophenia. Things bloom like apparitions around me. I always have company.
Also, I’m pretty earnest.
Your writer crush:
Lidia Yuknavitch. She should win a MacArthur Genius Award.
And Dean Spade. Because he expands my heart.
Any place in the world:
New York City and Lisbon
Black coffee plus oatmeal with cinnamon and a little honey.
Favorite online places right now:
The Margins and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (http://aaww.org/). They are tireless. Everything they do is so smart and rigorous and imaginative. I never feel like they are talking down to their reader. With all the click bait out there and so much pressure for people who feel like they have to publish essays in such a reactionary way (as in NATIONAL EVENT OCCURS and six editorials are being written within the hour), The Margins continues to be really thoughtful and historically deep. I published an essay with them a few months ago, and I was moved by their whole editorial process which took months and really was about the exchange of ideas, careful word choice, thinking about the trajectory of an argument. I had a similar experience with The Boston Review as well, another internet space I love. I am an old lady in that way. Good writing comes from good thinking, which takes time, and what separates a scholar from a critic.
I have a small, slightly blubbery cat named Adelaide (“Addie” for short). The markings on her face make her look cross-eyed and she is very chatty and loves eating and sleeping by your butt and she is my joy.
Your rituals (writing or not):
The only writing ritual that is consistent is that I keep reading. I try to make these micro-rituals happen. If I’m not feeling energized by my writing, I will write someone a letter by hand or go hunt for someones papers at a nearby library or do an erasure of a political document, most recently a short section of “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People,” a paper written by the Civil Rights Congress to the UN in 1951. I don’t want my “writing” time to go wasted so I try to figure out ways to “honor the literary” in some capacity even if I feel stuck with my own work.
Also, I have made some serious television rules in the past two years. I work at a college so my whole world revolves around the academic year schedule, and I watch almost no television at all in the fall semester. Like very, very limited, unless, you know, I get the flu and am mentally incapacitated, then sure, I’m down for some 30 rock. In the fall, when the weather is still pretty nice, I force myself to cook, go outside, read, run around the city, or pretty much do anything that doesn’t keep me glued to a screen. It is one of the best rules I’ve made for myself. And in winter/spring semester, I go back to television because I do think some of the best writing happening today is in TV and I’m not a lunatic… I relish a good binge watch escapist session. Especially with the political climate we currently live in.
Least impressive thing about you:
I’m impulsive. It’s get me into trouble. Also, my nose. Or maybe I’m fine with my nose now, I don’t know. Also, I’m indecisive.
Favorite space to write:
In transit. On a plane, train, or bus. Certain airports.
What should we know:
That the world is not so inevitable. Except climate disaster. That shit is happening.
Guilty literary pleasure:
Children’s books. I love falling asleep to audiobooks of Beatrix Potter tales. I feel so weirdly safe and entranced and it’s like time travel. I spend a lot of time in The Strand’s children book section like a creep, pretending I’m picking out books for my phantom child, Esmeralda.
She’s shy, but very astute. [Note: Author has no real offspring].
Best book nobody talks about:
Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses is a book I return to all the time. Over and over. My favorite vignette is from “The Ultimate Dinner Party” where she talks about the fall of the Roman Empire, lead poisoning, orgies, and Ovid.
Also, a recent book by Aaron Apps called Intersex which only a handful of my friends have read for some reason. It’s just like visions of animals and flesh and shitting and masturbating and it a text that is hard to forget, but it made me think of Sianne Ngai’s chapter on “Disgust” in her book Ugly Feelings, which I can’t stop rereading. She says that disgust is basically the most dehumanizing of negative emotions because it blocks empathetic identification with an object but you’re still attracted to it so it’s this weird pull of attraction and repulsion. I think Aaron really does something amazing with that book in understanding that to be disgusted by something means you are regulating it to the subhuman realm. What happens in that realm then? What kinds of desires and lusts and vulnerabilities can occur? What does humiliation even mean down there? It’s a book that taught me a lot.
Character (TV, book, movie) you most identify with:
Helga from Hey Arnold. Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. Aura Estrada from Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name.
Last time you lied:
Probably at The Strand when I was looking for a book for my Esmeralda.
Question you secretly want to be asked:
What are you reading?
For theory, rereading the marvelous Sara Ahmed’s Willful Subjects. For poetry, Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses. Both are astounding.
Megan Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Boston Review, The Adroit Journal, Rattle, Guernica, Thrush, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Common, among many others. She lives in NYC.