Freaking Out Squares

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Amy Guth Has Really Fucking Cool Glasses

If you haven't yet heard of author/blogger Amy Guth, chances are you'll start hearing her name mentioned a lot in the upcoming months. Her debut novel, Three Fallen Women, which is currently in pre-release from So New Media Press, chronicles the lives of "a frustrated painter newly-aware after a breakdown; a heroin addict whose organs are attempting to warn her she's dying; and a woman who finds serious catharsis in prostitution, castrations and mercy kills – as they individually fall apart, reconstruct, rinse, lather, repeat" and has been described as indispensable for anyone "who thinks the patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack." (You'll be hearing that line a lot too.) While you're waiting for your copy to plod its way through the mail, check out Amy's monthly "socio-feminist" column in Outcry magazine and for god's sake, make damn sure you visit her blog and post some comments.

Amy is a former New Yorker who has claimed residence in various other cities, and she apparently has the accent to prove it. Currently living in Chicago, Amy further adds to her contemporary Renaissance woman cred with a stint as an improv-er/collaborator for the hallowed Second City troupe, where she distinguished herself with a little skit about snorting improv coke off a dead hooker.

As I was compiling this interview, I discovered that Amy and I have more in common than smart mouths and cats. Turns out that Amy herself had the same job at NYCO that I did, pimping opera during the 1999-2000 season! Did I mention she also has really fucking cool glasses? And a friend who lives in a yurt! Aces!

Enough patter. Let's let Amy speak for herself...

Where did you come up with the idea for the "What I did with Her Book"
contest?


I lived near a drycleaner in New York City who ran this contest where you
had to make something out of drycleaner bags and wire hangers. The winner
got six months of free dry-cleaning. So, I thought of that one day and
wondered about applying it to myself and that's where it ended up. I've
had a big response so far.

I read your interview on QueerCents, in which Nina says that Three
Fallen Women "has been recommended for anybody who thinks that the
patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack." Did you begin this novel
with such, um, lofty aspirations in mind?


No, but I couldn't be happier with that line that has emerged about Three
Fallen Women. I began the novel at a time when I was suddenly very aware
of some women around me having trouble enforcing their boundaries and then
ending up in these extreme situations. So, more or less, I suppose I was
trying to make a statement, whether or not I would have realized that at
the time, and ended up doing it through the mouthpieces of these
characters.

You are a very funny woman, and I'm not just saying that because
you're doing me the honor of appearing on my blog. Do you still find a
huge resistance to being a smart, self-deprecating funny woman? It seems
like for every Janeane Garofalo or Amy Sedaris, there are about thirty Meg
Ryans-that whole brand of fresh-faced, cutsey-pie thing that Hollywood
tries to convince us is high comedy. Do you see us making any headway on
that?


You know, I see a lot of instances of women being faced with a situation
where they can either be supportive of another female artist, or they can
be catty, and they keep opting to be catty, and I just don’t get it.
There's not a cap on success or creativity in the world, but a lot of
women act like it's this crazy competition and it makes me crazy. I
totally believe in supporting people who are out there doing their thing,
and if someone is cool, I want to be friends. It’s really as simple as
that, but people make it needlessly complicated and I wish they didn't. As
for your original question, yes, I do think there is a lot of resistance to
women who are smart and funny. I think it exists because most people want
to be able to categorize everyone they meet and when confronted with
someone who defies categorization, they don't know what to do, so,
unfortunately, a lot of people switch into a negativity mode.

It does seem that a lot of what the cattiness is about-and this is
something I struggle with all the time-is focusing our frustration on each
other, rather than trying to create something new and dismantle this
stronghold from the ground up, or deifying women as peaceful, nurturing
warrior goddesses. It leaves us no room for growth.

I think that's probably true. I just feel like there isn't a cap on
success, or abundance, not really anyway nor, am I wired to really mess
with competitiveness. I just don't see the need for it. So, I I feel like
sharing and outward supportiveness is really necessary to any kind of
successfulness.

Along with "smart-ass," "vegetarian," and "cat lover," one of the
credentials you claim on your blog is "Jew." Your practice strikes me as
awesomely heterogeneous-the sacredness of yoga here, the Wiccan practice
ofswirling honey and sugar and herbs into a bottle there, along with the
traditional apples-and-honey on Rosh Hashanah. How do you see Judaism et.
al. as having shaped and continuing to shape you?


I don't think there is one true religion or way of thinking. Whatever
works and creates positivity in a life is valid for that person. Again and
again it strikes me that there are so many bridges that exist in various
religions to perhaps develop a deeper understanding of each other, and
ourselves, by seeing and understanding those similarities. And, personal
ritual has always fascinated me, particularly in secular contexts. So, to
me, and for probably a lot of other Jews, Judaism isn't a set of beliefs
or practices, but a way to filter things. I mean, we really consider the
hell out of things and I'm no exception. I try to consider as many sides
to any given subject as I possibly can, and I think my decisions are
temporary. By that I mean, why lock myself in? Why should I aspire to feel
the same things and practice it the same ways at 30-ish as I will when I'm
50-ish, right? That would freak me out to lock into one set way of doing
things forever. So, that was a tangent, but basically, I really put
Judaism to work for me because it's like having an organized way to
intentionally disorganize things to run freely in order to see what works
at any given time. Does that make sense?

Works for me! You posted an interesting piece about practicing lashon ha-ra, which
is not spreading "negative truths" unless the person to whom you're
speaking needs the information. How's that working out for you?


I adhere to it everyday. I think it's really important. I mean, haven't we
all slipped and said something crappy about someone? I have and it always
made me feel bad afterwards, to put so much negativity out there like
that. So, I decided to adopt the practice of lashon hara because it's a
solid name for something that's really important to me. There just no
reason to knock other people down and by talking smack, it's like you're
trying to tell people how to feel about someone, which seems manipulative
to me. And, it's easy to keep lashon hara in practice in my daily life,
as I just tell people that I don't have an ear for gossip and that usually
shuts it all down.

Okay, here's a light, dipshitty question to finish up: Tell me about the tattoos.
How many, what are they, the fun stuff. Also, as an ex-New Yorker, can
you recommend a safe, reputable place to get one?


Well, get a tattoo whenever you feel comfortable. You'll walk into a shop
and know it is the right one for you, and the same applies to your artist.
You have to really get along and feel comfortable with the person giving
you a tattoo or you'll always have that slight memory of what a
not-positive experience it was. For a jumping off point, stop people on
the sidewalk with beautiful tattoos and ask them where they went. Ask your
friends. People know good artists.

I have a back piece in progress. The first part has been finished for a
while, so I need to get off my ass (what was I busy doing? writing a
novel?) and add the other three or so sections. But, I also have a little
tattoo on my abdomen, just below my navel. It originally was a memory tat
for my grandmother, but it's fading so I have my eyes open for a way to
redo it but evolve it at the same time.

Thanks a million times over, Amy, for letting me play hostess, and my apologies for not putting this up sooner in the day. Hope everyone played nicely while you were waiting for me to post this.

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Thanks, you! I had a great time! Do keep in touch....

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