Five Questions with Emily Barton

Photo Credit: Greg Martin

Photo Credit: Greg Martin

Emily Barton is the author of the novels The Book of EstherBrookland, and The Testament of Yves Gundron, as well as many essays and book reviews. She has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, an artist's grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bard Fiction Prize. She currently teaches a graduate fiction workshop at NYU and is working on a series of essays.

It has been my pleasure and delight to be in Emily's class this past semester, and I was ecstatic when she agreed to answer my fun micro interview questions! 

–  Katie Bockino


1. What secret talents do you have?

I’m really good at knitting and fixing things. I pack my kids adorable bento lunches. In college, I was the lead singer in a band that covered The Paranoids’ songs from The Crying of Lot 49, but now I prefer to sing harmony.


2. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy? 

I was alone and outdoors much of the time, making up superhero stories while I roller skated. My favorite toys were a baby doll named Babes and a stuffed Siamese kitty named Tajma, after my next-door neighbor’s cat. I think she must have thought the palace was called the Tajma Hall and not the Taj Mahal.


3. If something “goes without saying,” why do people still say it? 

“It goes without saying” is a rhetorical strategy for saying that you wish something was so self-evident that everyone agreed on it. It’s not an especially elegant strategy, but it works. People say it because a) they haven’t reread Strunk & White recently, or b) they would edit that out and phrase their statement more concretely if they were writing and/or had the time to edit.


4. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?  

I have actor’s nightmares. A friend invites me to see something like Hamlet. I arrive at the theater and people are furious at me, because it turns out I am supposed to play Hamlet. I go backstage, pick up the script, and tell myself, “It’s okay, it’s okay, I can memorize this thing in the next . . . fifteen minutes.” But I know it won’t be okay.

Sometimes I have a teaching nightmare, in which, say, a writer I’m working with shows up to a yoga class I’m teaching, talks on her cell phone for half an hour, and then walks out.


5. What do you want your tombstone to say?

An end date a hundred years from the start date. I want to see everything that happens.