So, Marisa, your first book is coming out in a few weeks.  To someone who hasn’t read it, how do you describe Drenched?

Ok, I’ve been working on this answer.  It’s a collection of offbeat love stories that are all interconnected. And by offbeat, I mean strange things happen.  It takes place in a recognizable, natural world, but there are impossible elements folded in.  In the story “Hotmouths” one of the main characters has teeth made of rose quartz crystal.  When this character gets turned on sexually, his teeth fire hot and he burns his girlfriend when they kiss.  Why his teeth are rose quartz and why they get hot is not addressed, it is just a fact of the world.


All the stories are connected?  How?  Like a movie?  Can you compare it to a movie?

Yes.  All connected.  Some tightly, some less so.  There’s a main narrator who’s in four of the ten stories.  But all the stories are connected by character, place and event.  I was talking with an old friend about this recently and he told me he’d heard of a film term that describes this kind of interconnected multi-linear narrative.  He couldn’t think of the term over lunch but later sent me a Wikipedia article that called this style “hyperlink cinema.”  Movies like Magnolia and Traffic could be described using this term.  Is there a term like this for literature?  I don’t know, maybe I should know.  Anyway, I’m not a huge fan of the term because it sounds so soullessly internetty.  I like the word hyper, though.  And I like the word link.  Separately.  And not to describe the genre of storytelling I’m doing.

So—the stories are about longing and loss and sex and water and how the pursuit of love—true or untrue love, it doesn’t matter, the importance is in the desire to connect with someone else and the high that accompanies that desire—all this conjures a kind of magic, makes impossible things happen.


Do you like comparing books to movies?

I really don’t.


But you did it.

I guess so.  But only loosely.  I compared the overall structures.  There are books that are structured somewhat similarly.  David Schickler’s Kissing in Manhattan.


Fine.  So, Drenched.  Sounds wet.  What’s with all the water?

Many of the stories take place close to the ocean, or in the ocean.  When the ocean isn’t a main player, other water flows in for a significant role.  In the story “Deliquesce,” the main character fills her bedroom with water as a gift for her lover.  When I was writing and introduced water into whatever scene or story, I really loved it. Water feels full and sexy and somehow private.  I like reading writing that feels private.  Like a secret make out session with a new person in a small space.  Warm water feels like that to me.  And conveniently, there’s not much cold water in the book.  Even in the ocean, which in my experience, is often very cold.  Most of the oceans my characters end up in are the comfortably warm kind.


You said Drenched is about love, but I’m not so into aboutness, so list the top 10 things you love.

Fried calamari and margaritas, wearing a good outfit and going dancing, waking up in the middle of a dream and then quickly falling back asleep and continuing the same dream, smelling good-smelling necks or the sides of heads when you go in for a hug, sunglasses, bartending, really warm weather, the amazing effect fake-tanning has on one’s self esteem, coffee, walking around.


Not a lot of water on that list really.



You said bartending.  Rumor has it you’ve been bartending for many years.

Yes, I’ve been a bartender for most of my adult life.  I love it because it’s a little like going to a party and getting paid for it.  I can be alone all day, piddling around, maybe hopefully writing, and I feel quiet and spacey.  Then I get to clean up and hop behind the bar and people are there to celebrate (or sometimes mourn).  Either way, it’s an event.  I like getting lost in my brain all day and then boom! showing up at an event with music and drinking and people to talk to.  And usually bar goers are on the make, which is an exciting charge to be around.  It’s a place where there’s a basic understanding of almost everyone’s bottom line desire for the evening.


Does bartending influence your writing?

I think so.  There are a lot of bars in Drenched.  Bars and water.  Two of the characters build a bar on a boat and call it “The Sea Boozer.”  Because I’ve spent so much time in bars, it’s something I know.


I knew a bartender who was allergic to the sterilizer used to rinse the glasses.  It gave him scabs between his fingers.

That’s gross.


Well, a lot of people have allergies.  Do you?

None.  But many years ago I went on a date with a guy who was (and probably still is) deathly allergic to nuts, all nuts.  We had dinner and before the food came out he pulled a plastic tube from his pocket, about 5 inches long and in it was a clearly visible syringe with its long needle nose.  He told me if trace nut parts made it to his dish, then to his fork and into his mouth, he’d stop breathing.  And if it looked like that was happening, he told me to remove the syringe and stab it in his thigh.  I don’t remember what was in it.  Adrenaline?


Yeah, maybe adrenaline.  That sometimes keeps people from dying. On that note, with your first book being released in a minute, do you feel like you’ve been stabbed in the thigh with adrenaline?



The daughter of a painter and a linguist, MARISA MATARAZZO grew up in Los Angeles. She attended Harvard-Westlake high school and pursued acting as a teenager. She earned her BA from Yale, where she received the Wallace Prize for fiction writing, the Jodie Foster Scholarship, the Arthur Willis Colton Scholarship, and was a two-time recipient of the Elmore A. Willets Prize for fiction. Earning her MFA from UC Irvine, she was the recipient of the Dorothy and Donald Strauss Endowed Thesis Fellowship. Drenched, her first book, will be published by Soft Skull Press in February 2010. Her stories have been published in Faultline, Hobart and She lives in Los Angeles.

4 responses to “Marisa Matarazzo: The TNB 

  1. God, I miss bartending. Especially when I think about how much fun it was to tap into the energy of the people there and be swept up in it, but, at the same time, be in a place apart from it.

    We used to have a bartender who had this weird stained skin on his fingers. I asked about it one night (someone else, not him). ‘Beer rot,’ was the answer. I started washing my hands with soda water (not sure what you guys call that in the States) after every shift.

    Damn it. Another book to read. I hate you sometimes, TNB.

    Welcome aboard, Marisa.

  2. Kissing in Manhattan was terrific. I so loved that book. So I can’t wait to read yours now.

    Also? Your adrenapen (probably an epipen? Epinephrine? Which is nearly adrenaline if it’s not actually it) reminded me of Mission: Impossible III. Tom Cruise stabs one into Felicity‘s neck with the caveat “This is adrenaline, Lyndsay. You’re gonna feel this.” She shock-gasps as it floods her system. It’s a truly genius cinematic moment I hearted.

    Like I hearted this interview. Good stuff.

  3. Welcome to TNB, Marisa!
    Well, I hate water (unless it’s a really hot shower) . . . but I love margaritas and coffee, and I wear sunglasses until about 9pm even in the dark Chicago winter, so sounds like we can still hang out when you come to town, as it will be February or March so no water is likely to be involved . . .
    Yeah, Simon, I miss bartending too. As you guys around TNB know, my dad was a career bartender, and I worked bars in my early 20s, but stopped by the time I moved back to Chicago at 25. I should have kept at it longer, but it was one of those things you kind of don’t realize, when you first stop, that you may never do again. Maybe when my kids all move out of the house and I stop having 5 or 6 different writing related jobs concurrently, I will become an old lady bartender. That would be awesome.

  4. Erin says:

    Great interview, Marisa! Makes me wish I had more glamorous jobs back when I was tending bar. The Holiday Inn was always just kind of sad. Anyway, congratulations on the book — I can’t wait to read.

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