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  • Hello Emma! Rebecca! Lovely to be hanging out with you!

  • 00:00:12,035 --> 00:00:15,255 This is a dream come true for me. This is genuinely...I love this part

  • of the world and to get to interview you

  • in my favorite part of the world is kind of about as good as it gets

  • so - thank you so much for agreeing to do this.

  • My pleasure! lovely to hang out with you again

  • You are one of the most intelligent and

  • prolific women I know and have had

  • the pleasure to meet. You've written 20 books on feminism..

  • Well i've written 24 or 25 books, but

  • many of them are not about feminism [Yes]

  • All of them are secretly feminist and some of them are overtly feminist

  • ...I would say! That makes sense! [Yes]

  • What drives you to write so

  • prolifically? I successfully

  • avoided husbands and children and day jobs. [laughter]

  • Those things can all really interfere

  • with your productivity. [laughter]

  • Amazing! and I'm always

  • fascinated by...

  • I find if I have anything to write I procrastinate

  • magnificently. Do you have

  • a rigorous writing schedule

  • whereby you write between this hour and this hour

  • and you eat this very specific thing and...

  • is there a routine that kind of helps you

  • get so much done?

  • I get up every morning and have tea

  • with milk on an octagonal tray I bought at a thrift store

  • many years ago...

  • and like that has to happen fairly early

  • and then the rest of it is kind of a muddle and a blur

  • and I often feel like the most distracted, disorganized person

  • ever...but books do

  • issue fourth regularly which makes me think

  • 'if i'm this disorganized, what's everybody else

  • doing?' [laughter] and...

  • 00:01:50,085 --> 00:01:52,735 But , you know I really wanted to be a writer

  • I love books and writing was

  • like one way - even more than reading - to be

  • with books, in books, about books and so

  • when I learnt how to read, I just decided I was going to write books

  • ...which is a very easy decision until

  • you actually have to do it, but

  • somehow, one thing led to another.

  • In your bio, you cite that you are a

  • product of the California public

  • school system from kindergarten to graduate school.

  • How did that shape you ? Why did you

  • want to mention it in that way?

  • It's actually very funny, I was on a panel with two men

  • just up the road in Monterey about 10 years ago

  • and they both named dropped

  • their ivy league universities. I was like 'your older than me,

  • we don't name drop our universities'

  • and then I was like 'that's what an ivy league education

  • is for apparently!

  • and I was like well.... can Isay bad words on this?

  • [Yes, I think so] Well I was like well 'fuck it! if they are gonna name drop...

  • the ivy leagues, i'm gonna name drop

  • public education in California. [Yes!]

  • *Applause*

  • That's so cool! I sometimes worry that

  • someday they'll say like 'well we should defund that

  • because it produced her' but... [laughter]

  • But I just realized, you know...

  • we've got to name drop these things. That's amazing! I love that you

  • did that so incredibly specifically.

  • Was there one specific moment or

  • a series of moments that led up to you

  • knowing that you wanted to be a writer?

  • I wanted to be a ballerina and then I learnt how to write,

  • how to read, which apparently happened very rapidly

  • in first grade.

  • My Mom says the first week; and then I thought

  • I wanted to be a librarian 'cos they

  • spar with books all day - what could be lovelier than that?

  • Until I realized that somebody wrote all those books,

  • and books for me, you know it's like a magic

  • box - until you can read them,

  • you can open it, but you can't actually

  • see what's inside, or do anything with what's inside, so

  • just that act of learning how to read pretty quickly

  • to my third and final career decision which I've stuck with.

  • Amazing! Yeah

  • It's very easy to decide to do something,

  • actually doing it is a whole other thing.

  • And it must have been like that with you deciding to be an actress?

  • You had to act? Yeah...well...

  • It did happen fast! Yes! it certainly did

  • I mean, it kind of came out of nowhere

  • to be honest. It was actually

  • poems and poetry that really got me and I was on the debating team

  • because I was really nerdy like that! That was what got me into it...

  • This feels like a ....

  • it must be a calling for you. I mean you've truly dedicated your life

  • to doing this, and I love that sometimes I

  • email you and I get an "out of office" kind of...

  • 'In order to get anything done, I cannot respond to

  • emails' and I just love that you

  • create that.. [I try] Yeah!

  • The really nice people

  • listen to those things and the less nice people

  • continue to chase you around.

  • Really?! As you know, as you know...

  • [Yeah] But it's a really interesting thing that

  • nobody calls you up, nobody emails you

  • desperately urging you to

  • do the work most central to your life and your vision

  • and yourself, everybody wants you to do something other than that,

  • and a lot - some of it's noble causes

  • and some of it's favors for deserving friends

  • and some of it.... you know...

  • and I believe in service and support of the community

  • but....

  • I couldn't possibly do everything i'm

  • asked to do

  • and if I did

  • half of it, I would never write another book, so there's

  • this interesting thing [love that!]

  • I think if I had been popular as a young woman, I would have

  • had a much easier time with people wanting things from me, but

  • you know, I was like hiding in libraries and

  • reading a book a day.

  • I love that 'the work most central to your vision.'

  • That's such beautiful way of

  • putting it - which makes sense

  • because you're a beautiful writer! so, that makes

  • sense. In 'Whose Story is This?

  • Old Conflicts and New Chapters', you

  • talk so brilliantly about how

  • power determines who gets to tell their story

  • and who gets to be believed.

  • Are there

  • stories, or

  • people that you really wish we were hearing

  • more of right now, beyond those that you cite

  • in your book?

  • I think everybody in this room,

  • everybody listening to this recognizes that

  • women, people of color, non-straight,

  • non-cisgender people

  • have not been sufficiently

  • allowed to take center

  • stage to the stories, to determine what matters

  • to set the priorities, and that's changing in some ways,

  • but something I always feel, and I read about in

  • the introduction to this book, before we get all like

  • 'they were a disaster, but now we're

  • awesome and we're so damn woke is...

  • I feel like...

  • next year, next decade, next

  • century, we'll be like 'Oh my God

  • those people in the year 2019

  • so completely missed this and now we see...

  • now we include this thing we excluded, so I feel

  • there are things we don't see yet and we always have to

  • recognize how finite

  • our vision is and how much more is out there

  • and you know there are other things coming along

  • and we have to be grateful to the people who woke us up

  • and who taught us to see these other things as i've

  • been taught so much by indigenous activists,

  • black lives matter, feminism

  • and...

  • a life blessedly spent among the gay men of San Francisco

  • and, you know etc...and the drag queens

  • and the dykes.

  • Have there been moments, are there things that you've written

  • that you look back on that you feel

  • gosh, I ...you know...

  • I had a blind spot here? or...

  • Are there things that you would, you wish

  • that retroactively or in retrospect you could go back and add more

  • context to? It's interesting because

  • there are a bunch of things, including my first book which was

  • about the visual artists who are part of beat culture, who I feel like

  • I kind of surfed a specific layer of

  • the culture and you go deeper...

  • you know I didn't have the

  • equipment to go after the massive misogyny of that era,

  • although some of it, as I was talking to

  • people of that generation was being targeted at me.

  • The memoir I have coming out that's in your lap

  • you know, takes care of the beats very

  • thoroughly as

  • people will presently see. So you revisited?

  • Yeah, so I feel like there were things I

  • understood better and that were clearer

  • you know, and I don't feel like any of those things is a misrepresentation

  • but it often feels like I both

  • have space to say things I might not have earlier

  • and that it's really

  • kind of when you tell a story you decide which layer

  • you're going and that i've been spending

  • a lot of time the last decade on the feminist layers,

  • the gender politics and

  • things which I was gentler about in some of

  • those earlier books. Interesting.

  • Of those 20 books

  • that are part of this

  • anthology, is there one

  • particular one that

  • stands out to you as the one you are most

  • proud of? Or that you feel...

  • If, you know... Oh Emma! Impossible, it's like choosing children!

  • I know, I know!

  • and it's really ...they did different things

  • like, my book 'Hope in the Dark'

  • I wrote in the bleak era

  • after the bombing in Iraq started and it was

  • written to

  • encourage people of what a writer friend of mine reminded me doesn't

  • to, you know pet people on the head, it means literally to

  • instill courage and

  • it played a role in people's own

  • political lives that was really important to me

  • my book 'A Field Guide to Getting Lost'

  • is a much more introspective personal book

  • that has also been meaningful to people

  • and a lot of artists have made art in response to it

  • and stuff - so there's that.

  • You know, I love the swath

  • 'Men Explain Things' has cut through the Universe

  • and....you know

  • and right now the book i'm writing

  • after the memoir comes out

  • that i'm working on now, that'll be out

  • possibly in 2021, maybe in 2022

  • I'm just like madly in love with,

  • but they all have a function and they all represented something -

  • all of them are something I really wanted to say

  • and I really wanted people to think about,

  • so, there's a couple that I think didn't turn out

  • great, but there's a lot of

  • you know...

  • I strongly disagree but...

  • [laughter] You just haven't read those ones yet! [laughter ] Okay...

  • I chose 'Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters'

  • as the book for my book club

  • 'Our Shared Shelf' along with your take

  • on Cinderella.

  • The bit that I loved so much, well

  • I mean you talk about this across your work really - you quote George Orwell

  • in 'The Prevention of Literature' where he writes "totalitarianism

  • demands in fact,

  • the continuous alteration of the past and in

  • the long run, probably

  • demands a disbelief in the very existence of truth."

  • It seems that we've crossed over into this

  • truthless world that Orwell

  • foretold.

  • Do you see a way back?

  • I don't know where we go from here but I have to

  • say that Orwell's sentence could have described

  • hearings this morning for those of you who were listening to them.