Life Stories #107: Chavisa Woods

Life Stories: Chavisa Woods

Chavisa Woods’ 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism is a book that, as our British friends say, does exactly what it says on the tin—chronicling 100 separate incidents of sexist behavior that Woods has faced in her lifetime, a pattern of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse (including sexual assault) that starts when she’s five years old and continues to the present day. It’s a patten that, I speculated, just about any woman should find instantly recognizable, to which Woods replied:

“I keep saying a lot of memoirs are written because the author thinks it’s an exceptional story. I actually felt like I needed to write this memoir because my story is not exceptional at all, and I wanted to show how pervasive sexism is in multiple spheres of society… I just wanted to show how pervasive it is everywhere and how it affects us constantly throughout our lives.”

We cover a lot of territory in this conversation, including how Woods used to adopt a violent response to sexual harassment—and the mental and emotional toll that response took. Misogyny becomes like a hazing ritual, an ordeal women are supposed to endure for the privilege of being allowed to participate in society at all. As I said, every woman reading 100 Times will find it instantly familiar… but every man who reads it and doesn’t recognize the world it describes has to come to a hard reckoning with things he may have done and has almost certainly condoned through inattention, inaction, and silence.

Listen to Life Stories #107: Chavisa Woods (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in Apple Podcasts, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (If you’re already an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Itziar Barrio

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5 August 2019 | life stories |

Life Stories #106: Rick Moody

Life Stories: Rick Moody

In The Long Accomplishment, Rick Moody takes readers through the first year of his second marriage. It was a moment in time where he’d gained significant control over his addictions, and had extricated from a dysfunctional first marriage—a moment when, as I jokingly said during our conversation, “everything should be coming up Rick Moody.” But it didn’t go that way; instead, we have an account of a couple grappling with the financial and emotional tolls of fertility treatment, along with various other assaults from the outside world… and, as Moody describes it, a shutdown of his creative faculties so all-encompassing that, eventually, the only thing he could see himself writing about was what was happening to the two of them.

We talked about how he was able to write about these events, and he made an insightful distinction between craft and candor—whereas most of his career, including his first memoir, he’d been focused on craft, this time around he decided to go all in on the opposite direction, to be as upfront as he could about everything:

“It would be most honest to say I’m a somewhat uncomfortable memoirist. The Black Veil was the hardest book I’ve ever written; it was very, very difficult to write. This one was easier than that one because I had fewer formalist balls in the air, but it wasn’t easy, either. I sort of had to trick myself into doing it… I treat it diaristically in the first draft, and then I try to impose sense on it.'”

It wasn’t, he confides, an easy project—and we also discuss what it’s like to write about the life you share with another person, and about facing a situation where being one of the most acclaimed writers of your generation is absolutely no help.

Listen to Life Stories #106: Rick Moody (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in Apple Podcasts, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (If you’re already an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Laurel Nakadate

4 August 2019 | life stories |

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