Why did you write Ways of Looking at a Woman?

I was working on a dissertation and I needed another way to procrastinate besides cat videos. I also wanted to explore some pressing questions I had about 1) women looking and being looked at, 2) how film and literary theory could help me answer these questions, and 3) how mothers fit into all of this.

 

Why did you call it Ways of Looking at a Woman?

At first I was going to call it 13 Ways of Looking at a Woman as a cheeky nod to Wallace Stevens’s poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” But then a Google search revealed that I was literally the last of about a thousand people to think up some variation on this “cheeky nod” as a title. Also, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad looked so good I almost curled into a ball and gave up on writing altogether.

 

Why did you ultimately not curl up into a ball and give up writing altogether?

Paradoxically, for the very reason I initially wanted to curl up into said ball: because of the wonderful writing by women out there, and my desire to keep writing about it and keep writing it.

 

What constitutes great writing by women?

Anything that makes my head feel like it might explode, but in a good way.

 

What’s the last book you read that made you feel like that?

Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World. Wow. Just wow.

 

Are you hoping with Ways of Looking at a Woman to make readers’ heads explode?

Definitely, yes.

 

What were you reading while you wrote Ways of Looking at a Woman that made your head explode?

I was reading what felt like a thousand lyric essay a week—or lyric essays that called themselves novels (and I say this as a high compliment), such as Jenny Offill’s Dept of Speculation or Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? I was also watching movies that I thought of as lyric essays, such as Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.

 

And these books made your head explode?

Yes, and then I tried to take that exploded matter and paint with it on the page, so to speak, in Ways of Looking at a Woman.

 

What did you want to make readers feel when they read Ways of Looking at a Woman?

Less alone—like I had thought all their weird thoughts and therefore loved and accepted them.

 

What do you want reviewers to say about Ways of Looking at a Woman?

Ways of Looking at a Woman was so good it made my head explode. It also made me feel less alone, like Hagood has thought all my weird thoughts and therefore loves and accepts me.”

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CAROLINE HAGOOD’s first book of poetry, Lunatic Speaks, was published in 2012, and her second poetry book, Making Maxine’s Baby, a small press bestseller, came out in 2015 from Hanging Loose Press. Her writing has also appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist. She’s a Staff Blogger for the Kenyon Review, a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Fordham University, and she teaches creative writing at Barnard College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

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