Episode 478 – Rebecca Mead

Virtual Memories Show 478:
Rebecca Mead

“There’s a sense of layered history in London, and you can see it written into the streets. You can walk in London and see a skyscraper on one side of you and the Roman wall of the city on the other.”

New Yorker contributor Rebecca Mead joins the show to celebrate her wonderful new book, Home/Land: A Memoir of Departure and Return (Knopf)! We talk about the adventure of making a midlife leap — her departure from NYC after 30 years & her return to England —, the ways this memoir differs from My Life In Middlemarch, the moment she truly felt like she was a writer at The New Yorker, and The Book Cull, in which she and her husband — past guest George Prochnik (2014, 2017) — pared down to 170 boxes of books. We also talk about the mournfulness of moving house after 30 years, what she’s learned from profiling and interviewing cultural figures, the joy of reading about vikings for months on end for a big feature, what being an American means to her, what it was like growing up in a Morrissey song, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Home/Land!

“The more American I became, the more earnest & sincere I became, the more intolerant I became of English resignation and understatedness.”

“I wrote in an essay in the wake of the election of 2016 that my sense of what America promised to be and the American I had become had felt fractured and undermined and at risk of disappearing altogether.”

“One of the things that writing books is for — for me — is to do a kind of writing that I couldn’t do for The New Yorker.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Rebecca Mead has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1997. She has profiled many subjects and has contributed more than two hundred pieces to the Talk of the Town. She is the author of One Perfect Day and My Life in Middlemarch, a New York Times best seller. She has served as a McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University and is the recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in London.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Rebecca by James Prochnik. It’s on my instagram.

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