A novel about the complexities of being a woman, an artist, a mother, and a wife; a novel about persona and obsession and loyalty and repression; an exorcism.
Told in four volumes over seven years, with emails, g-chats, and an ‘interview’ with Lydia Davis (and a nod to Ms. Davis’s The End of the Story), the style of Person/a is often experimental, pushing the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, obsession and mental instability, female independence and a loyalty to current and former lovers, but with the ultimate loyalty being to oneself or one's writing, and is there a difference? and should we be ashamed?
I would like for this to be a road novel. I often read novels that involve the road - navigation of unknown highways, in particular - and am envious of their narrators. It is decidedly harder to alleviate feelings of restlessness while confined to one’s home. In the morning I often sit in the chair nearest the window and close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be driving in my car in some far off state such as Iowa or Tennessee or Nebraska. Occasionally on such mornings, when the desire for movement is strongest and I am unable to set it aside in order to begin my day, I leave my chair and drive off in one direction or another away from my house. I find roads that pass cornfields and lead away from the town in which I live toward other towns, towns with which I am unfamiliar. The names of these towns are unimportant and I do not note them on signs or if I do note them, I do so only momentarily and forget them again as soon as I have passed into the next one. When I set out on these drives it is usually with the intent of being gone a matter of minutes, long enough only to momentarily quell my feelings of restlessness, though almost always I am gone much longer than I intended. I either become lost and have to keep driving until I find my way again or I become so intoxicated by the road and the navigation of it that I procrastinate turning onto the roads I know will lead me home and instead continue to turn onto the roads I know will lead me farther away. Always there is the desire to keep making the turns that lead away so that I will eventually end up in one of the far off states. Most of the time now I no longer think of driving to the state in which he resides. It is only the signs on the highway – denoting the number of miles between our cities – that reminds me how close to me he is physically, 229 miles, though it is something other than miles that separates us, and in that regard my restlessness cannot be alleviated with driving anymore than it can be alleviated by the writing of this novel during the day or the drinking of small or large amounts of alcohol in the evening. These feelings of restlessness preceded him and will very likely outlast him and I have become in some ways accustomed to them so that in their absence I would likely not know how to feel or would feel nothing at all, which would be, in many ways, unpreferable to the feelings of restlessness.
“[Person/a] is boring in the way a drug addicted supermodel is boring … which I'm not sure actually constitutes ‘boring.’”
– Emily Carney
“Your novel was encouraging to me. Because I’m writing another autobiographical novel also, and I keep feeling pressure in my mind from various vague sources, and just a general feeling, to not write what I most want to write, which is something that goes deeper into autobiographical writing, exploring it even more than I have before.
Your novel seemed very brave and extreme and exciting to me, the amount of freedom you were exhibiting.”
– Tao Lin
“I felt at times while reading [Person/a] that I was guilty of some conspiracy against my partner.”
– Laura Theobald
“At this very moment, through the sound system at the coffee shop in which I am writing this, the recording of Patsy Cline singing the Willie Nelson written "Crazy" is playing. It feels appropriate and significant, and it is through this appropriateness that I will enter an attempt of locating a possible thematic core. Madness, obsession, fixation, infatuation, lovesickness, the fragmentation and bottomless confusion of the self that strives to know itself, know others, find itself through, by the means of, others, that constant looking, looking, looking, and unknowing, unknowing, unknowing-- these are the things that I think about when I think about what your novel is about. Also, and this is the formal genius, the way it begins to slide and shift its style towards a kind of elliptical essay about fiction, while still remaining fiction.”
– Ben Gross, on Person/a
“Person/a has really dragged you through the mud.”
– Chelsea Martin
“[Person/a] reads like an exorcism.”
– Fiona Helmsley