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Alexandra Fuller at Powell’s

September 19, 2011

Self-Proclaimed Loudmouth Alexandra Fuller Visits Powell’s

The charming and boisterous Alexandra Fuller struck Powell’s like a bolt of lightning last week while she was here promoting her new book, Cocktail Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Within seconds of opening her mouth, she had hundreds of fans laughing and wondering what she would say next. Looking so proper, it was a shock when she opened her mouth and let loose stories that would surely have made her family cringe. Luckily, she said, “They do live a whole continent away, so I can say all this and no one will tell them.”

Apparently, she is well known for her outspokenness. She says, “My husband who is American, said to me, ‘You know, I have to go to every dinner party twice – once for the dinner party and then the second time to apologize.’ I assumed that because Americans have freedom of speech, that they’d be using it all the time. My husband said, ‘Just cuz you’ve got it, you don’t need to be exercising it 24/7. You know what? – You’re like the nouveau riche of freedom of speech. Those of us who have had it for a few generations, don’t need to use it.’ So being a loudmouth with big loud opinions, I decided I needed to become an American citizen, so I went through that whole process and I was sworn in to become a citizen in Kemmerer, Wyoming where the most dignified person they could find to do the ceremony was the dentist.”

On whether her sister is also of the literary bent, Fuller says, “My mother had instilled in us that one of us was going to be a writer. She was going to produce babies until someone wrote a book about her. It was her way of edging onto the biography shelf. In pursuit of that, when my elder sister was still a fetus my mother, to spur her literary genes, she read the fetus the complete works of Shakespeare and it turned out that what it did was it put my sister off of reading and writing forever. So this had some bad consequences. My sister literally won’t read and she has a very loose grip of vocabulary. My dad has now decided that he’s lived for three score year and ten and he’s going to die. He’s found the tree he’s going to be buried under. So my sister (Vanessa), one night, was sitting there talking as we do in our family with my father about his death and Vanessa says, “Well Bobo, you’re going to have to do the urology – I’m not going to do it.”

Fuller talked about how she came to write Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.  She says, “I knew I wanted to be a writer. My mother had instilled that in me, but I was too frightened to write about her because she’s mad, she’s drunk and she’s got a gun. (At another point, Fuller said, ‘My mother is so politically incorrect, she makes Sean Hannity look like Oprah.’) So I wrote fiction – ten books of fiction. They were all rejected. I was probably the most rejected author in America. Then my agent fired me and so my husband left to climb active volcanoes in Mexico rather than be with the suicidal me.  Before he left, he left an envelope on his computer that said, ‘Only to be opened in the event of my death.’ So, of course, as soon as he got to the bottom of the driveway, I ripped it open. Ostensibly, it was supposed to have been written from the other side, but it was the most boring letter I have ever read.  Blah, blah, blah, mortgage. Yada, yada, yada, car insurance.  At the end, he just said ‘I think you should just write the truth’ and considering he knew some of that truth, it was a pretty ballsy statement. So, then I did write Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.”

Her mother was unhappy with her book, to say the least.  Fuller says, “My mother was not thrilled with Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.  She called it the awful book. She organized a multi-country sanction of me.  She learned about sanctions and boycotts from the Rhodesians, so she was good at that.  No one south of the equator or north of the Limpopo river would talk to me. My mother saw to that. What was lucky for her is I’d become an American citizen so now she could say, “Eh, this is my oldest daughter, the American – very nervy, the Americans, try to tell you everything.”

Oh, and if Alexandra Fuller is ever back in Portland, I will gladly have her to dinner twice!

Read my interview with Fuller at www.portlandbookreview.com.

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