Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Q&A with Caroline Hagood




Caroline Hagood is the author of the new book Weird Girls: Writing the Art Monster. Her other books include the novel Ghosts of America. She is an assistant professor of literature, writing, and publishing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write Weird Girls?


A: As always, it was so many things. I wrote this book about creativity and monstrosity with the lady monsters I loved in childhood in mind, but also for the adult woman and mother me (and I think many other women, too) whose creative life was weighed down with so many domestic duties and who really needed to remember those lady monsters.


Q: The book jacket describes Weird Girls as a “combination of memoir, cultural critique, and manifesto.” What role do you see the three playing in the book, and how do they work together?


A: Initially, I think I chose this structure because it’s how my favorite works of creative nonfiction are structured. I think the memoir adds a personal element to the cultural criticism—what I like to think of as the close-up shot to complement the panorama.

Then the manifesto aspect is sort of where I see any work of cultural criticism going if the author is passionate enough about a topic. Although I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always loved the manifesto form. It’s impassioned and even hopeful; why write one if you don’t believe this flawed world can ever change?


Q: The writer Patricia Grisafi said of the book, “Hagood’s text spills gloriously from topic to topic, weaving together a hybrid narrative that rejects both genre and the idea that the mother and art monster cannot co-exist.” What do you think of this description, and how would you define the “art monster”?


A: Honestly, that description made me feel very *seen*. I’m very much a believer that genres are meant to be broken and that hybridity is where it’s at.


The idea of the “art monster” (the often-male artist who gets to be totally dedicated to the art) can be seen from the very first literatures.


But, in 2016, Jenny Offill used the term in her novel Dept. of Speculation, when her character muses on how she was going to be an art monster but then became a wife and mother. In this way, she sets up this question of how passionate artmaking and domesticity can co-exist (or not).


Since then, I’ve been following with great fascination the responses of so many women, until finally I thought, “That’s it. I have to write a book on this.”


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I wanted to write on this “art monster” conversation that Offill started but not just title the book what she had already called it. When I thought hard about what united the women I admired, whose art and writing I admired, and who also happened to be obsessed with the current art monster debates, I landed on Weird Girls. All the girls I love are weird.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: That’s not really clear to me yet. I’m in the research phase, let’s say. For me, before anything becomes a book, it’s just a mass of fragments I’ve written that I’m drowning in, and that’s where I find myself now. Let’s hope that next time we chat, I have a snappy retort for this one or a legible project of some kind.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I guess I just hope Weird Girls makes some readers feel less alone in their weirdness, their artmaking, and their longing to create something despite a million reasons not to do so.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Caroline Hagood.

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