Hello gang! Today I am bringing you a repeat guest and Friend to The Blog, Emily Edwards, who you all may remember from previous guest posts here as the author of Collecting the Constellations and Pursue The Unknown End. Emily is now launching a new creative endeavor–a podcast called Fuckbois of Literature–so I had to ask her about it.
Have a listen to the introduction here:
1. Fuckbois of Literature is an irreverant, hilarious deep dive into the problematic characters in literature. Where the heck did this idea come from?
A few months back, a comedian named Sara Benincasa asked her followers, “If you could murder anyone from literature, who would you kill?” It’s morbid and macabre, but without hesitation, I responded back with JANE EYRE, because, you know, she’s awful. She married someone after he locked his first wife in the attic! I thought nothing of the response, but the tweet– both Sara’s and mine– went viral, and I woke up to hundreds of replies. People were very upset I said Jane and not Rochester (whom I also despise), and I went on to have a chat with two women studying literature at Oxford about how much we hate literary fuckbois. And… voila. For what it’s worth, both Jane and Rochester are fuckbois. So is Blanche Ingram. They’re all terrible.
2. What does “fuckboi” mean to you?
At first, it meant traditional Romantic, Byronic heroes like Rochester– they’re manipulative and cruel and play power games; they’re almost always wealthy and have some sort of unbalance, but their heroines are obsessed with them, and they’re written to make the readers root for these really disastrous relationships. But my definition is changing, especially when trying to understand how these characters appear in modern times, because they aren’t ever going away. Instagram influencers come up a lot in conversations. Fuckbois are like pornography– hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
3. You’ve had a March Madness-style Fuckboi bracket going on. How did you decide on who to feature this time around?
Most of them come from my own background in character-loathing, but also some research. It turns out, a lot of people hate the same characters from literature, and even writers from literature who are heralded even though, if they lived now, they’d probably be boo’d at readings or picketed at college campuses, and man, rightly so. Which spurs me to wonder even further– if we’re being taught that these characters are heroes or these writers are geniuses, but everyone hates them, why does the narrative of their success and superiority continue? You have to be kinda effed up to love Edward Rochester, and yet his type is still being written as a romantic hero in best-sellers today. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K of our society. And I want it to stop.
4. Tell me about your contributors.
The good news is, there are a lot of people out there with hard opinions about literature. Thank goodness! So far, I’ve interviewed everyone from friends from Twitter to friends from college. Alisha Grauso– whom I originally met on Twitter– almost went in for her Ph.D. in Romantic literature, so she’s been essential to kicking off the podcast with an episode on Lord Byron. It also helps that I have a number of friends with background in comedy, so folks like Jessica Ellis and Dave Child have helped lighten things up an awful lot. I have to stress that we do not take these books particularly seriously, but we do take the act of adding perspective to heart. I’ll always have links to people’s profiles and projects on the FBoL site, by the way. So **toot toot** my own horn, head on over there and sign up for the email blast so you can stay in the loop.
Note: Emily, Dave Child, and I all went to Emerson College together. At the very least, Emerson College has produced snarky graduates.
5. Confession time: for all that I love to read, I never really liked literature classes because a) I hate being told what to read and b) I hated having to dissect the thing I didn’t want to read in the first place. Is this revenge for a lit class at Emerson that you hated?
Absolutely. Everyone in our major at Emerson had to take two specific 101 classes– Intro to Brit Lit, and Intro to American Lit. My American lit professor hated me, because she didn’t think I actually took literature seriously. I don’t think my Brit Lit teacher even noticed me, which was fine. I did abysmally in those classes, too– who the hell has the time to read MIDDLEMARCH when you’ve got a million other classes? No one should be forced to read authors who got paid by the word.
This is why I took lit classes over the summer at CUNY instead of at Emerson. Who the fuck wants to read Huckleberry Finn and some depressing thing called Housekeeping, I ask you, when I had three other classes to write papers for.
Thankfully, I had one great literature class at Emerson– and I mean it when I say one. I had signed up to take World Literature, and when I showed up, it’d been changed without warning to Literature of Continental Europe. I was not at all pleased. But the professor, Kyna Hamill, was incredibly sympathetic to the fact that none of us had actually signed up for that particular class, and she made a great reading list. I can thank her for introducing me to Rabelais, which is something I never thought I’d say. I also had a really strange minor at Emerson– it was called Post-Colonial Studies, and it was a way to understand how countries and people who had been colonized re-formed their identities after their colonizers had left, and what colonization actually does to decimate people’s culture as a tool of power. The reading lists for those classes really helped shape my understanding of how to read books and understand deeply how they are problematic. Those classes were the replacement for the World Literature class that got yanked out from under me– and, frankly, World Lit classes that are seldom taught in American schools.
It’s probably not a coincidence that my favorite books I read for Lit classes were The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Crescent by Diana Abu Jaber: i.e, books that were not written by dead old white men. I think that was Multicultural Lit class? I don’t remember. Anyway…
You’ve worked in radio before. Is recording a podcast similar or different? What’s the process for recording a podcast?
I have worked in radio! I wrote and produced a weekly, two-hour, syndicated talk show about food and wine, that was hosted by my old boss, who just happened to be a James Beard Award winner. It was an interesting experience, because he walked into the office one day and just said, “I have a show now, you’re the producer, figure it out.” So after that sink-or-swim kind of experience, doing it for yourself, by yourself, is actually way easier– I guess also because this is pre-recorded, and that one was live. It’s very similar, in that you mostly just create an editorial calendar, book guests, and then edit, edit, edit, edit. Thankfully, my husband is in the music industry, so when I said, “I have to record some stuff,” he knew what to do– setting up mics, routing audio through Skype and recording programs, etc., it all just came pretty naturally. He also made it way more complicated than it has to be, as audio nerds tend to do. It’s really not much more complicated than just having a conversation into a microphone, but it does take a bit of direction to make the audio something people want to listen to, both in quality and content. This also got out my control-freak tendencies, because when I was a producer, I wasn’t allowed on mic. So if there was an interview happening, I couldn’t ask follow-up questions! So, now I get to. It’s been really lovely.
How is creating this podcast a creative endeavor for you?
There are things that I really enjoy doing– writing and performing– that I don’t really love doing in the traditional sense. Like everyone, I hate pitching articles and going through that rigamarole, so I enjoy being a little control freak and having my own outlets, like blogs and now this. I also will probably never get on stage, but I enjoy entertaining people. So podcasting feels like a very natural outlet for this– I get to have really fun conversations with friends, laugh my ass off, and make stuff, that hopefully folks will listen to. With the added benefit of it being pretty low-stakes; the worst thing that can happen is someone says something mean on the internet, which is pretty much default for comments on the internet anyway, so big whoop.
There are an infinite number of fuckbois in literature. (I mean, my gosh, I read romance, so…we’ll use ‘fuckbois’ literally here). What about them makes you tick?
Thankfully in my dating life and life at large, I did not have to suffer through that many fools. You know me well enough now– in real life and on social media life– to I guess I don’t let that many people push me around, and if you’re offering me nothing but guff, I’ll cut you out of my life. So, I also really don’t have the patience for swooning over jerks. Don’t call me if you’re dating a fuckboi and want to be told you can change them, really. But I also try to at least have some compassion for people who are not, deep down, bad and dangerous. Our second episode is a discussion of a character who most people think is an irredeemable fuckboi, but he’s really not, and my guest, Emett Cameron, really brings up some heartwrenching points about him. Fuckbois can bring out empathy, too.
Check out @FuckboisofLit on Twitter for updates and polls and other fun stuff to do with the podcast. Also, check out the Fuckbois of Literature website
And of course, do give Emily a follow on Twitter @MsEmilyEdwards
–she’s thought-provoking and entertaining and she posts cute pictures of her cats and dogs.