Marcy Dermansky is most recently the author of Bad Marie.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Misidentifying French landmarks and attempting to make peace with copy editors in sketchy motel rooms.
Author: Marcy Dermansky
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I want to touch upon coincidence. Because it does create possibly a problem for a reader who is looking for a plausible reality.
Correspondent: And I’m wondering if you can justify the use of coincidences or convenient run-ins because this is a work of fiction.
Correspondent: Because anything goes in fiction. Because you should be aware that it’s an artifice. Do you think that verisimilitude was just not required for this particular work?
Dermansky: Well, I think to some extent. There are crazy coincidences in life. And why not? I mean, there goes a motorcycle.
(A motorcycle passes.)
Dermansky: You never know who you’re going to run into or what’s going to happen. When I was signing books at BEA, someone came up to my table and said, “I want you to sign this for Alexa.” And I said, “Okay!”
Correspondent: Who was Alexa?
Dermansky: I have no idea. It was like her cousin or her niece. But at the table next to me, somebody walked up and said — and I just overheard; we were right next to each other — she said, “Could you sign this book to Alexa?” And it was just a different person next to me. And I just thought, “How many Alexas are there in the world that other people want?” And so that happened. And that’s not as dramatic as reading a book in prison and then coming out and finding out that your best friend is married to that author. But there are coincidences.
Correspondent: Did you make any efforts to track a third Alexa?
Dermansky: No. (laughs) I should have done that.
Correspondent: I mean, maybe there was a run-in of Alexas. Maybe there are a lot of Alexas in the publishing industry!
Dermansky: I stopped signing the book and said, “Isn’t it strange that there’s another Alexa?” And the woman whose book I was signing thought I was odd. And she’s just like, “Sign my book.” And I kept going on about how I thought that was interesting.
Correspondent: Did you find out what her name was?
Dermansky: No. I didn’t find out her name.
Correspondent: Maybe she was Alexa. Maybe she liked to refer to herself in the third person. We don’t know.
Dermansky: Possible. Yeah, you don’t know. The normal people are often that. That’s what I was saying.
Correspondent: But on the other hand, we are dealing with narrative vs. reality.
Dermansky: I know. It’s true.
Correspondent: And while we can accept numerous coincidences, numerous associations, numerous situations, numerous parallels — that’s not necessarily going to line up neatly in a book. And in this, it seems to me, reading it, that you just didn’t care.
Dermansky: I think I didn’t care. I mean, I could put it back on you and I could ask you that. And you could be truthful. If that bothered you as a reader. Did you say, “Oh my god! She’s gone too far!”?
Correspondent: It did and it didn’t.
Correspondent: I mean, I would say that it is rather curious that your book has a lot of outsider characters who are observing the situation. And then they mostly get involved with the narrative. And I wanted to actually ask you about that. There isn’t a single real stranger who’s looking upon all these weird characters — or unusual characters — or characters who came from a normal author.
Dermansky: Okay. (laughs)
Correspondent: They don’t just sit back and express disgust, save for that waiter. And I’m curious why you felt the need to pull in all these side characters into the narrative like this. As opposed to just letting them look at the situation and offer some expression of disgust, some expression of dismay, or what not.
Dermansky: Right. I was trying to remember who’s the waiter. He’s the waiter at the French restaurant.
Dermansky: And he’s very disgusted because they put all the food on the table. And the cat on the table.
Dermansky: Well, I mean, don’t you, when you introduce a character to the story, they have to become part of the story?
Correspondent: Not necessarily. I mean, if you’re in a crowd, and these characters are often running into crowded situations when they’re not in rooms, you’re going to have people give them glances or expressions and the like.
Dermansky: Yeah, that’s true.
Correspondent: So to me, it was interesting that you decided any remote run-in with someone, I mean, immediately they become a supporting character or even a minor walk-on character.
Dermansky: Yeah. I guess that’s true. Like there’s that scene in the bathroom in Paris.
Dermansky: Where the woman walks into the bathroom. And she doesn’t just walk in and out. Well, they’re two teenage girls. They walk in and out. And they give Marie a dirty look. But then a woman in a hijab comes in. And she actually helps Marie change Caitlin’s diaper. So she becomes a character just for that scene. I don’t know. I think, if you put somebody into a room, you want to use them. Or why do that? You can’t just have a book with four characters either. It gets very claustrophobic. And so I do that a lot. I feel that as a writer — I’ve taught writing. So I’ve told students that you don’t introduce a major character in the third act of your book. You don’t. You have to have all of the players in there. But at the same point, it gets so flat and stale. Like new people come in. It’s a little bit like life. So a movie star walks in at the very end of the book.
Correspondent: That’s right.
Dermansky: And that seemed okay to me.
Correspondent: Is this, I suppose, the mark of a very socially inclusive personality?
Dermansky: I don’t think of myself as a very socially inclusive person.
Correspondent: (laughs) Just like you like to introduce people at parties, you like to introduce characters in novels? In your writing?
Dermansky: (laughs) No, I’m the person at the party who stands back and just gets introduced to other people.
Correspondent: You’re just defying all the expectations here. This is great.
Dermansky: I think I defy the expectations without thinking! (laughs)
(Image: Rachel Kramer Bussel)