“All we’re doing is telling stories and getting them out, and if one person on the other end is there to receive it and have an experience that shifts them in some small way, then you’ve done your fucking job.”
Author Sara Lippmann returns to The Virtual Memories Show after almost a decade to celebrate her debut novel, LECH (Tortoise Books). We talk about how she had to move out of her comfort zone of short fiction (see her collections Doll Palace and Jerks) to write a novel, whether she felt guilty teaching a course on novel-writing before she’d finished her first one, the research that went into writing a book about the Catskills in decline, and what it means to find the right container for a story. We also get into the book’s title, and how it plays off of the Biblical notion of Lech Lecha (“go forth”) and the tradition of novels named after their protagonists’ last names (Herzog, Stern, Jernigan), and how LECH looks at those books through a feminist lens. On top of that, we discuss the silliness of “literary immortality” and what it means that almost no one reads Saul Bellow anymore, my absolutely ingenious idea for changing the nature of my podcast, how she took up running at 40 to combat depression, the moment she learned to stop caring about external validation, and the new novel she’s working on. Oh, and I stupidly ask her for a writing prompt. Give it a listen! And go read LECH!
(And go listen to my 2014 conversation with Sara!)
“I consider myself a short story writer. I think everyone has a narrative sweet spot, in how they conceive of story and narrative. The danger is becoming complacent with that comfort level.”
“Running and writing are linked for me, metaphorically: endurance, stamina, getting comfortable with discomfort, the banality of repetition. . . .”
“I gave up worrying about external validation, waiting for a gatekeeper to let me in, some patriarchal daddy to say, ‘Good job!'”
“There’s an event that happens in the novel, but what’s interesting to me isn’t what happened but the various interpretations of what happened and how it attains a mythological quality.”
About our Guest
Sara Lippmann is the author of the story collections Doll Palace, re-released by 713 Books, and Jerks, from Mason Jar Press. Her work has been honored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, and has appeared in The Millions, The Washington Post, Best Small Fictions, Epiphany, Split Lip and elsewhere. She teaches with Jericho Writers and lives with her family in Brooklyn. Her new novel is LECH.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Sara’s sister’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Color photo of Sara by me; b/w photo by m.price. It’s on my instagram.