images (1)She thinks I approached her out of the blue. She thinks I wanted to interview her out of the kindness of my heart. The truth is this: ulterior motives.  I must confess that I’m interested in the convergence of several elements in her work (emphasis on several): exotic locale (China, in this case), the thematic rubbing up against each other of missionary zeal (whether secular missionary zeal as found in Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder or sacred missionary zeal which you’ll find in Virginia’s book) with contemporary mores, and the fact that both Virginia and I showed up a little later than usual on the publishing field, despite our lengthy, lengthy, lengthy histories in writing without an audience. And Virginia and I have the same publisher (Unbridled Books). She sounded pretty interesting to me!

Jennifer Spiegel is the guest. In 2012, she published two books: The Freak Chronicles, a story collection, now available from Dzanc Books; and Love Slave, a novel out from Unbridled Books.

 

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Who are you? I’ve never heard of you before.

I’m scared to quote song lyrics because I’m afraid I’ll be sued, but I defer to my first favorite song: Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill: “I’m just another writer, still trapped within my truth.”

Don’t sue. I have no money. Tell me this doesn’t make you weep on hands and knees, or long for some cosmic connection with another human being who happens to be a cross between an Italian mobster and a French painter, or a British rock star and a wild animal trainer. Just tell me. Don’t lie.

Prologue: Going Home with the Poets

New York City on Sunday, December 11, 1994

Madeline and I are walking home from the Nuyorican Poets Café, where these people with lousy day jobs, like waitressing or temping or sometimes dealing, read their poems, which are always about having really good sex or being a black woman.

We go there on Friday nights, always Friday nights, and we fold our legs beneath us on wooden floors, sipping cheap drinks and sweating under bare bulbs that make the place look ghoulish.

Next to us, the poets. Ahh, the poets! People of mystery, of magic, of words. We know they write quatrains and couplets on paper napkins at cafés on Sunday afternoons, stirring lattes, buttering croissants, consuming raspberry tarts—oh, we envy them their free verse!

Jennifer Spiegel is a way bigger freak than me. I base this solely on her excellent debut story collection, The Freak Chronicles, a suite of stories that includes among its retinue the tale of college girl stalking Mickey Rourke and a coed indulging in some extracurricular international relations with a Russian street artist. Spiegel’s stories are sexy but never salacious, and deeply humane. Her heroines spend a lot of time traveling the world and grappling with the complicated moral terrain they encounter.

She seems to have a big mouth, so I was wanted to toss a few provocations her way. Here’s what happened…