The Bat Segundo Show: Edie Meidav II

Edie Meidav appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #402. She previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #51 in a tag-team interview with Scott Esposito. She is most recently the author of Lola, California.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Been all around this great big world.

Author: Edie Meidav

Subjects Discussed: Returning to old neighborhoods, whether or not the first-person perspective as the most authentic method to get the reader to believe in the account, carryover between Emile in Crawl Space and Vic Mahler in Lola, California, how a third-person novel is like a panopticon, the immensity of motherhood, the chasm in American fiction between the female perspective and male-dominated, idea-centric fiction, postgender fiction, narrative stripteases, fiction as the act of omission, Freud’s dream categories, being aware of the reader’s patience, writing the equivalent of three books for every book, rewarding the reader, short chapters, failed attempts at a 250 page novel, putting the essential into a novel, Peter Orner’s The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (PDF), Eros and Thanatos driving a novel, people who read Dan Brown during a commercial break, 21st century reader expectations, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, writing about a place when you’re not in it, views of California within and without, Jerry Brown’s assault on California parks, living writers capable of writing a “California novel,” Aimee Bender, TC Boyle, Dana Spiotta, identities in California, “Daughter of California,” needlessly psychoanalytical readings, whether a prison cell can be written as a “uniquely Californian” one, overcrowded prisons, writers who are fascinated by twins, considering robots, the secret language of boys, tactile forms of enlightenment, enlightenment found by embracing one’s origins, false ideals and physical healing, burrito metaphors, using “she lied” instead of “she said,” readers who expect the truth, the courtroom trial as a dramatic device, whether it’s inevitable for an author to repeat herself, and overly modular attempts to explain the novel.


Correspondent: I want to ask about the dramatic appeal of the trial. There was a trial in the last book [Crawl Space]. And there’s a trial in this book. Sort of. What of the trial? It’s the ultimate way to force a character to become contrite with what he has done in ultimate sin. But I don’t know. I look at you now and I see a possible courtroom junkie quality. What of courtroom trials? Do you think that today’s novels and dramatizations seem to have moved away from this basic justice? Why trials?

Meidav: Well, that’s interesting. I mean, in a way, I hear what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Am I kind of creating a hysterical version of what is actually occurring?” It could be an ethical confrontation rather than something that confronts one of the institutions of society. Not being somebody who has spent a lot of time in any way linked to the law, I think I like playing — and maybe I’ll try and tone it down in the next book — but I like playing with society’s institutions. The prisons, the courtroom; in this book, there’s also a sanitarium.

Correspondent: Yes, of course.

Meidav: You know the spa? I think it interests me especially when you have such an ectoplasmic subject as California. It’s interesting to have a hard-edged setting in which somebody comes into a dark mirror moment. That said, one of my favorite scenes in literature is in Madame Bovary — to go back to Flaubert. I love this scene — and this is kind of a societal institution too — where you have a kind of village marketplace like a pig contest. A very agricultural contest taking place. And up above, you have the two lovers having this intimate scene. And it’s interspersed with this judging of the pigs. And I love that interweaving of the very small personal against the bigger habitual unseen eye of society. So maybe that’s an answer.

Correspondent: Or maybe it’s a way of turning something that is seemingly individual or personal into something that has the resonance of history. If you align a personal strength or failing with an institution, suddenly, yes, there is the societal impression! There is this sense that everything we do will matter more if it’s being judged by a jury. (laughs)

Meidav: That said, I also do deeply believe in this Wordsworth idea that in the meanest flower, a universal wind blows. So I’m hearing it. I’m thinking, “Okay, maybe in the next book, I’m going to avoid all big scenes.”

Correspondent: No!

Meidav: I’m going to keep it smaller.

Correspondent: No.

Meidav: More personal. But, you know, maybe I’m starting to lean on that as a crutch.

Correspondent: I don’t know though. I mean, you’re going to inherently repeat certain elements over several books.

Meidav: True.

Correspondent: But approaching it from a different angle, it’s going to become fresh. There’s one really great early moment where the girls are stealing slices of pizza from a parlor that, if you think about it and if you want to reduce it down to its basic essence, well, it’s common shoplifting. It’s a common theft. But because of the way you describe it, it actually means something and it resonates. And I don’t know if avoiding, say, a trial or avoiding a specific element in a future book is really an honest approach if you’re writing fiction.

Meidav: That’s true.

Correspondent: Do you think?

Meidav: Yeah, right. Because when you said that, I suddenly had this view of fiction like the mosquito eye with all its little parts. You rotate it. The element needs something different. So perhaps.

Correspondent: On the other hand, you have to be extremely reliant upon the subconscious in order to write fiction. You have to completely capitulate to the muse, so to speak, and not be aware of conscious repetition. Conscious things you may have been employing in previous books and the like. What do you do to deal with this? Do you think that the whole enormous operation of honing a book pretty much negates any concern for “Oh, I’ve done this before” or “Oh my god, Ed has noticed this from a previous book” or something like this? I mean, to what degree should it even matter?

Meidav: Do you think it’s a truism that most writes essentially write and rewrite the same book over and over and just get better at it? Until they are not better?

Correspondent: To some degree, I believe that. And it all depends on the voice. And it all depends on the ambition. I mean, some writers write the same book if you boil it down to its basic elements — even though every book will be different. I think once you strive to not do that, and I think the best way to counter that is to simply approach something perhaps as you have. An enormous mosaic of institutions with which to splay the typical into something that is a little more distinct. You think?

Meidav: You know, it’s possible. I was just thinking. You know, there are certain writers I admire. I’m thinking of Saul Bellow or others who work against this societal backdrop. Or J.M. Coetzee. But there’s a way that, even if their elements are identifiably repeated, each book they are really in a different timbre. And this is also true in a way of Alice Munro! Even though her turf is a different turf. We’re sitting in this restaurant maybe two blocks away from where, years ago, I interviewed this woman who each year — her name was Linda Montano, she was a performance artist. Each year, she would wear a different color. And that was her art. And she would have someone see her to bring out different energies. And it’s probably a question of focus. One probably brings the same understanding to what literature is meant to do to each novel. But I was trying to use Linda Montano’s words — a different shock — for this book.

Correspondent: Or maybe it’s that ambition that causes difference. I mean, okay, I love PG Wodehouse like you wouldn’t believe. But he does have a tendency to repeat some of his basic elements. But you know what? At the same time, I don’t care. Because it’s just very delightful. His sentences are so rhythmic. There’s a great sense of fun. There’s a great sense of quirkiness. Same thing goes for a lot of comic novelists. John P. Marquand, the great undersung guy who won the Pulitzer and now nobody reads. Or Donleavy, for example, who I read for the first time this year — The Ginger Man was incredible. And then I read his next book and said, “Wait, this is the same thing as the last one.”

Meidav: You know what I’m thinking as you’re talking? Maybe each author over his or her lifetime is creating rules of counterpoint. And within that, there’s greater potential tension. In other words, if you know the furniture is there, maybe you can create different kind of energy, a heightened energy, once you’ve established this is the furniture of my craft.

Correspondent: So do you think it’s a matter of every author creating as many furniture options as possible so there’s the illusion that the author is not repeating herself?

Meidav: Yeah, possibly. Possibly. I mean, that sounds so modular.

Correspondent: (laughs) Yeah, I know. It doesn’t work that way.

Meidav: (laughs) Right.

Correspondent: It’s not like a desktop theme or anything.

The Bat Segundo Show #402: Edie Meidav II (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Reed Cowan

Reed Cowan appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #341. Mr. Cowan is most recently the director of 8: The Mormon Proposition, which opens in numerous theaters on June 18, 2010.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Conducting investigations on Dick Van Pattern’s possible Mormon connections.

Guest: Reed Cowan

Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]


Correspondent: I wanted to also ask about the box of secret documents. You don’t actually cite a source. And there’s no indication in the film that you made efforts to corroborate this with the LDS. Or to even contact the names that were possibly on the emails or the memos. I mean, I’m a viewer — let’s say — who is on the fence. I see this. There’s no provenance. Did you make any steps to confirm the provenance? And why isn’t this in the film? I mean, is there some sort of website component here that one can use to find authenticity?

Cowan: I’ve actually met the person with the documents out of the Church offices. Out of the archives. So there was some corroboration that went on there. And also, what a lot of people don’t know is that, during the federal case that’s going on right now, those documents were provided to the case as well. Which led to subpoenas of other documents from the Mormon Church. In those subpoenas, we were able to see that the documents the Church had to hand over correlated with the ones we have. So it’s a matter of court record, from my understanding with the people inside the trial, that they match.

Correspondent: Which court record is this? Which case?

Cowan: In the federal trial that’s going on right now. Perry vs. Schwarzenegger.

Correspondent: Okay. Got it. And speaking of which, I actually wanted to ask you why you didn’t cover Strauss vs. Horton — the three cases that were consolidated into the California Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. It would seem to me that that’s just as much a part of the story as the Mormon mobilization. And also the efforts to try and take Proposition 8 off the ballot that were again rebuffed by the California Supreme Court.

Cowan: Well, the thesis of our film is “8: The Mormon Proposition.” And so really the onus is on us to prove their strategy, right? And to prove to the audience how it came together, how the strategy was formed. And so we feel like we did that. And anything else is outside of that focus. And, you know, there’s so much here. I mean, you’re right. There is so much here that if the citizenry really wanted to see what’s going on, I mean, you could produce ten, fifteen hours of programming. Just in the federal trial alone. I mean, the fact that they are not allowing the testimony to be televised, to me, is sickening. And could be hours and hours and hours of documentary material that we could obviously add to the film.

Correspondent: Hours and hours of dramatization as well.

Cowan: Sure. Sure. But I don’t know an audience that wants to sit through ten hours of documentary. And so look for the books, I guess. Look for other documentaries. And I hope there are more made.

Correspondent: I’m wondering if you believe that any Mormon can believe in same sex marriage.

Cowan: I do. I know that some of my high profile Mormon friends believe that I have the same rights as they do. And I have the right to claim those rights. It would be surprising, I think, to a lot of Mormons to know that one of the most popular governors in the state of Utah, Jon Huntsman, and his wife Mary Kaye are dear friends of mine. Jon has now been appointed the Ambassador to China by President Obama. And they are very close friends of mine. And Jon Huntsman has gone so far in that state — now a lot of people wouldn’t like that he didn’t come out and advocate for marriage, but he advocated in that state for civil unions. And that was a huge step. And Mary Kaye said to me, “You realize why we took this stand and took the heat. It was because of you and your partner. It was because of our relationship and friendship with you.” So can Mormons get it? Absolutely. Absolutely.

Correspondent: Then I’m wondering why you didn’t profile, for example, Laura Compton, who started that site I mean, that seems to me a decided apostasy in relation to this particular issue. That not all Mormons are some sort of Borg-like collective.

Cowan: Yeah. You know, there were a few who did dare speak out. There were many who were punished in certain ways for speaking out. And that created a culture where they didn’t dare. So people like Laura are heroes. But again, the thesis was to prove “Look, this was their proposition.” It wasn’t the Catholic proposition. The Mormons were the man behind the curtain. And so again, I welcome any documentary who can profile her or the other few, the minority of Mormons who stood up for marriage equality. And continue to do so. And who are now crossing the aisle and seeing where the inequity happened.

Correspondent: Surely deflecting criticisms from the Mormon Church by having someone like Laura Compton in your documentary would have allowed, I suppose, for those sitting on the fence to consider the issue perhaps a little bit more.

Cowan: Maybe she would have provided a light that people could follow. But again that’s not what the film was about. The film was to show the inequity. Because that was the great wrong that happened. And, you know, in an hour and twenty minutes, that’s the time we had. The time we had to try to prove that case.

The Bat Segundo Show #341: Reed Cowan (Download MP3)

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