How?

I got my heart broken and tried to fix it by sitting down in front of an empty Word Document.  It didn’t work.

How do you feel?

Tired.

How do you feel now that Inside/Out is out?

Terrified.  I never imagined strangers reading it.  I imagined my friends seeing these words, but they lived through it with me, and so it’s not strange to them.  Reading it now, it’s strange even to me.  It happened years ago.  I don’t recognize the self who would act that way.  I barely recognize the writer, his obsessions, his ticks, his longings, his voice.

How do you feel that people will react now that the book is out?

I just want people to read it.  I want people to agree or disagree.  I want people to identify or to refuse to identify.   I want people to write back. I want people to see themselves in it, or absolutely believe that no human could be this earnest, that hurt.

How?

I got my heart broken and decided to fix it by sitting down in front of an empty Word Document.  It didn’t work.

How did you decide?

I once would have said that the decision was made for me, that all I did was react.  I see now that not being able to make a choice is a mode of choosing, and one that is trying – desperately – to escape responsibility.  I try to choose differently now.  I try to choose.  

How did you decide on the form?

The form was obvious.  The book needed to be fragmented, it needed to shift and pull from various sources.  I started writing it before I read Bluets by Maggie Nelson, but that book cemented it for me.  The separate parts had to accumulate into a story, a narrative, that never quite held.  My voice isn’t Maggie’s, but my pain did feel like hers, my obsession did feel like hers, and my writing, like hers, seemed to  offer some sort of way out.  

What?

I wrote about a broken heart, and how I participated in its breaking.

What made you feel?

My body, my mind.  Being a fragile soul living thing in this outside world.

What made you feel this was a story that had to be told?

I had spent two years loving a person who desperately needed to control the narrative of our love.  He asked me not to share things that happened between us even with my closest friends.  I shared some things anyway, and he always got distant when I did, and so I learned to be private, even with my beloveds, even with myself.  Spectacle, the open display of my wounded heart and body, was necessary to heal.  That it was at his expense still feels dirty, but I don’t know a way around it, and the goal was never to hurt, not even him.

Why?  

I got my heart broken and tried to fix it by sitting down in front of an empty Word Document.  It didn’t work.

Why are parts of the work redacted?  

There were images in the work before.  I called them receipts.  Like I said in the text, the notion of ‘gas lighting’ didn’t exist in pop culture when I was living through this relationship.  My ex lied about so much and so often that I doubted what I had lived through.  As Sontag taught us, the image seems a fixed point, a moment of trust, proof of something.  The images were proof that my trauma existed in my head, but not only there.  

Why are the parts of the work that redacted explained and not simply omitted?  

We decided not to print the images.  I decided that their absence speaks of something too.  So, like always, I wrote that down.  

Why?

I got my heart broken and tried to fix it by sitting down in front of an empty Word Document.  In some ways, it worked, or it was a step in what worked, and I have to admit that the next step was being touched by another.

Why did you decide to write a self-interview and not an excerpt, an essay?

When I got an email from Seth with the subject line NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, I thought he had been reading my Twitter and was worried about me.  2017 has been a year that taught me – again – what loss and pain can be.  When he showed me other self-interviews, I was in love.

We younger writers, we queer writers (to say nothing of women and trans writers, too) are often accused by those who came before of being millennials, self-obsessed, too internal, too self-absorbed, not looking enough to the outside: to nature, to plot, to narrative, to the lives of others.  We’re self-indulgent, everything that’s wrong with the world.  That we inherited a world, a planet, an economy that has been broken by those who came before seems irrelevant to them.  

When this was lobbed at my hero Sharon Olds, I knew it was bullshit.  Interiority is a life of its own, a life worth exploring.  Self-interviews stare this notion in the face, refuse to look away, give it the finger, and insist that it doesn’t matter whether you think our millennial nonsense is worthwhile or not: We aren’t going away.  Here’s what I think.  And here’s what I think, too.  

Who?

I write first for myself, and then for the world.

Who did you write this book for?

I wrote first for myself, and then for the world.

Who did you write this book for?

For myself.

Who did you write this book for?

For every lonely faggot who felt bad for crying, for hurting. For every lonely faggot who knows the double pain of feeling pain and then feeling ashamed of that pain.  

Who did you write this book for?

For myself.

Who did you write this book for?

For myself.

Who did you write this book for?

For everyone but him.

Who did you write this book for?

For everyone.  For him.  

 

__________________________

Bio: Joseph Osmundson is a scientist and writer based in New York City. He has a PhD from The Rockefeller University in Molecular Biophysics. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Gawker, The Kenyon Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, too. His book, Capsid: A Love Song won the POZ Award for best HIV writing and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. With three other queer writers, he co-hosts a podcast, Food 4 Thot, which covers everything from dicks to drama to discourse.

You can find Inside/Out, published by Sibling Rivalry Press, here.

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TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others.  Our editorial team includes:  SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

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