Awful Interview: Jill Christman

4 Oct

Jill Christman is the first person to be invited back to read at tonight’s Vouched Presents, and I’m glad to have her back to celebrate the re-release of her memoir Darkroom: A Family Exposure tonight at Big Car Gallery. She has a charisma at the mic that I’ve seen in few others, and her words are equally as smart and charming. Get to Big Car Gallery tonight to celebrate with us!

You read at a Vouched Presents reading a few months ago, and people seemed to become completely enamored with you and your writing. It was amazing to see. What do you think makes you so enamoring?

Aren’t you sweet! You know, this is a question my husband (the poet Mark Neely) sometimes wonders about when something I’ve said or done elicits a positive human reaction. He shakes his head, smiles a tad too bemusedly for my taste, and says, “People like you. I don’t understand it, but they do.” There you go. Straight from the lips of the man who’s supposed to love me best in this world.

Or, maybe better posed, for what reasons ideally do you hope someone would become enamored with you?

Well, as I think my first Vouched reading made abundantly and inappropriately clear: my surprising skills with a nicely weighted dart and my stunning prose, naturally.

But seriously, Chris, don’t you think we should turn this one around and ask why it is we are all so enamored of you?

Ha. I don’t think we should, actually. Even if it might be a bit of an ego-boost, I’m a bit terrified of the answers, to be honest.

Instead of that, let’s talk instead about Alabama. Tell me something about Alabama that you’ve never written in any memoir or essay.

Okay, Bama it is, but I’ll tell you that I have always admired your genuine and untainted love of words and books. So there you go.

Actually, now that you ask, I realize I haven’t written much about Alabama, despite the fact that it was there that my own world of words spread like kudzu beyond my wildest imaginings. Let’s see. Do you know that game “Three Lies”? I’ll tell you three things and you guess which one is the lie.

When I lived in Alabama. . .

1) I had a Charlie’s Angel themed disco party and just when I thought things were wrapping up, they ramped up. Literally. An unnamed writer dressed as Evil Knievel asked me if I had any rubbing alcohol, and before I knew it, there was a flaming ramp in my front yard and he was jumping the prone body of another unnamed writer.

2) I attended a reading by a famous writer that went on so long and was so wretched that I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled, unnoticed, from the room.

3) A young male neighbor with a pack of pit bulls, closely shorn hair, and alarmingly blue eyes, kicked in the hood of the car of a gentleman caller of mine. The police responded to my call, but did nothing. In the morning, my smiling neighbor approached me at the chainlink fence dividing our driveways and asked, meekly, “You ain’t mad at me, are you?”

Why is it that all of these seem so entirely feasible to me? I’m going to say the 2nd is the lie because while it seems most plausible, doesn’t contain as many specific details. Although, you being a writer yourself, would know how heavily specific details weigh in the consideration of the veracity of tales. But, without wanting to get into a “Never challenge a Sicilian when death is on the line,” style circle of reasoning, I’ll go with my first choice: number 2 is the lie.

You win the prize! #2 is the lie, and your deductive reasoning, of course, is flawless. Silly me. I shouldn’t have let lazy writing give me away. I should have added that this same writer threw a rock-star fit and insisted she have her hotel room changed–because the styrofoam container in which she’d had her bbq ribs delivered would not fit neatly into the provided trash receptacle in her room–which is nutty, but true. All these years later, though, I *wish* I’d crawled from the room. It would have been the appropriate human response to a 2 1/2 hour reading, don’t you think?

A 2 1/2 hour reading by 1 reader? How important did she think she was?

Exactly. Gruesome.

I would chuck someone from the pulpit if they tried to read that long at Presents.

Speaking of, as the first person to have read once before at Vouched Presents, what are you looking most forward to in returning to read?

I certainly think that the big hook from the curtains would be the appropriate response to a reading of that duration. Here’s my tip for all readers: leave them wanting more (not wanting to crawl from the room).

What am I looking forward to? Everything! The opportunity to read to the smart, savvy Vouched Presents crowd, and to share the lectern with such an extraordinary line up of writers, including a former professor and my very own husband (two *different* fellow readers). There’s a zippy energy and a love of words in that Big Car Gallery and I can’t wait to jump in. Thanks for inviting me, Christopher.

One Response to “Awful Interview: Jill Christman”


  1. “As white and clean as new paper” – Visiting Writer Michael Martone « She throws the burning books into the sea. - October 5, 2011

    […] to hear Martone again – in addition to a couple of our super-talented faculty, Mark Neely and Jill Christman, and also Patricia Henley – at the Big Car Gallery in Fountain Square and wound up succumbing […]

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