Visual Interviews are conducted long-distance, via disposable camera and a box of ephemera. I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Nicole Prickett, writer and founding editor of Adult.
How and why did you to get where you are now?
At seven-thirty a.m. the alarm in my head began to play, and I thought about everything that happened yesterday, and everything that is supposed to happen today. I took a Fiorinal. At eight a.m. the alarm in our bedroom began to play—some like Mussolini cello concerto, hello sunshine. Jesse woke up, and [redacted]. At nine-or-so a.m. I washed my face and thought about not working or taking any more pills. Then I took two more pills and sat down to work, impelled by a need to alleviate my dying, I mean what is there to say about where I am? At a kitchen table with my laptop in sight of the highway and the skyline, two things I love in the world.
Since you almost definitely meant for me to talk about my career, I guess I got where I am now—although the phrase in this context gives me wrinkles—by pretending and practicing, like most people. The thing that makes me unlike most people in my field and demographic is that I had a strange and inconclusive education; I was homeschooled first, then autodidactic by nature, and I never unlocked the anyway-dubious achievement of a post-secondary degree. Hence I don’t know half the canon and I’m not one for dogma. I’m not even that good at politics. All the same I have a kind of intelligence that’s institutionally recognized and viable, which is a pretty big privilege. And I’m white, young-ish. I know how to look good. All of that.
What does your creative process look like? How has it changed and evolved?
I don’t know, because I never look at it. Briefly: I do more, feel I’m doing less, and work harder than I ever did before.
I don’t quite believe in fate, but I often feel like my creative projects (the important ones at least) come at times when I wouldn’t have been able make to make them before that moment. Was creating Adult like that for you?
Neither do I, quite. When I was 21 or 22 I got “es muss sein” (“it must be”) on my ribs, which is from Beethoven but I got it from Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. I don’t think I’ve looked at the book since, so whether this is the meaning I meant to give the tattoo or the meaning it has now, I don’t totally know, but it means: necessity is destiny. Incidentally, this in turn means that biology is sometimes destiny, a thing I didn’t learn for real until I was 25.
How do you care for or protect yourself?
Emotionally: I have very good friends, and I rarely see anyone else. I do little out of social obligation. Lately I try to avoid peer-to-peer gossip, which isn’t so easy in New York, where it’s almost as hard to socialize if you don’t gossip as it is if you don’t drink! But for me, the hangover from gossip is harder than the hangover from drink. To be clear: When I say gossip, I mean telling other peoples’ secrets; I mean, shit-talking is one thing, but secret-telling is much much worse. There’s a difference between talking in a ‘trust circle’ situation about someone or something that bothers you in order to figure out why they bother you, or what you should do about it, and talking shit in order to smear someone’s reputation, or to trade secrets for status. This media-bloggy mentality in which anyone slightly public and slightly more fortunate than the blogger is fair game for Senate-level exposure is… pissy and lame, if not evil. Gossip is boring now anyway. No one’s having wild affairs or getting addicted to crack. It’s just like, who got fired, and why, or what sexist thing did someone say in an email, or how much was somebody’s book advance. In the literary milieu, gossip got a little too professionalized. Art-world gossip is more fun, but half the time I don’t really get it, athough I do harbor fantasies of fictionalizing it all, redundant as that may be.
Online, I’m really good at not searching my name anywhere, and I find it basically unconscionable to reply to or retweet subtweets from people you don’t follow. If someone clearly isn’t talking to you, don’t talk back! Let them talk. It’s rude to interrupt. Besides, and I don’t know whether this is self-care, pride, or efficiency, but my rule is: if I don’t know or care what a person thinks about anything else, why should I know or care what they think about me?
Mostly, though, I fail to make safety a priority, and I’ve never much protected myself emotionally. I’m very Fiona Apple that way. Jesse, my husband, is better at caring for me than I am, and I don’t feel bad about that. I’m not and never have been a right-hand-ring feminist. If anything, I’m mad that all I’ve asked for is equality, or reciprocity. Where are the reparations? I wanna be Virginia Woolf! But I say this facetiously; nobody needs to tweet at me about it. Unlike Fiona and Virginia, I’m neither a genius nor a suicide.
Physically: I’ve taken boxing lessons a few times, six weeks at a time. I should go back to the gym, but it’s expensive; instead, I shadow-box in the mirror, an activity that does nothing for my physique but feels good. Someday Jesse and I will live somewhere big enough (not in New York) to have a giant punching bag in the study. What else? I don’t diet, but I think about what I eat; I almost never over-drink, because I like drinking but I hate being drunk; I only smoke two cigarettes a week now. I take Wellbutrin, which makes me crave peaches instead.
Is there anything that’s off-limits for you? About what you’ll write about, or even edit in Adult?
In my own writing I don’t do gossip, as discussed. I don’t enjoy book reviewing, although I very occasionally do it. I don’t criticize works of art made by teenagers if I can help it. In general, I avoid assignments that require me to colonialize experience, unless it’s male experience, which is not as avoidable. I don’t write about the majority of my inside self. This last fact surprises people who find me honest or vulnerable or narcissistic or simply too much. I’m always surprised in return. If you think I talk/write about everything, how small is your idea of everything! Anyway, it’s not about how much a writer shows. You can show (off) a lot and reveal nothing. Consider the nude…
By the same measure, anything I think or feel is off-limits until I think or feel it again. I don’t work in real time. That’s what Twitter is for—like, scribbling on a dry-erase board. Twitter isn’t writing, not really. Unless you’re publishing Twitter fiction, or Twitter essays, but… why? It’s a form I don’t fully understand. All tweets that aren’t A+ poems, jokes, or aphorisms should auto-delete—that’s something I’ve thought many times!
As for Adult, I stick to Renata Adler’s rule: “I don’t trust writers in whom nothing is at risk.” I/we categorically dismiss: anything that takes the word “kink” too seriously, anything that takes either “the male gaze” or “the female gaze” (?????) too seriously, anything written by a man (gay or straight) about prostitutes, unless that man has also done sex work, and anything by J**es Fr***o, who submitted, for Issue Two, the corniest poems I’ve ever seen. I also don’t have a lot of patience for sex tourism, although we did run a thing about the spas in Berlin on the web. Sometimes I worry we’re overintellectualizing sex; I have to remember how much of sex is a head game, and not only this animal thing, while also leaving room for the irreducible (a.k.a. magic).
What do you find exciting about where you are now? (Or find exciting about what you’re working on?)
It’s hard, and I’m getting better at it. That goes for both my writing and the magazine. At the magazine, I’m awed and excited and driven by the masthead and contributors. I want to make something good enough for all of us.
What do you fight for?
Love and affection. And sanity.
Tell me a good idea.
Oh god, I’m not that generous!
Sarah Nicole Prickett, interviewed August 2014. Website | Adult | Tumblr | Twitter | Instagram