Seeing In A Haze Of Vulnerability: An Interview With Lauren Holmes, Author Of ‘Barbara The Slut: And Other People’

When Barbara the Slut came into the office on submission, it was all we could do at 4th Estate not to print out multiple copies and throw them at passers by. The book, a collection of short stories so stark, so honest, so true and so unashamed, was published just two months ago and in its time, has garnered quite the online presence. We couldn’t help but reach out to Electric Literature to pilfer some of their amazing interview with Barbara‘s author Lauren Holmes…

Jill Di Donato: Though there are some sex scenes in the collection, what I find most compelling is your descriptions of what characters are thinking during foreplay and sex. You really work the subtle observations; your depiction rings so honest. How, as a writer, do you convey that specific type of vulnerability?

Lauren Holmes: Thanks! I love awkward shit, and pay close attention whenever that type of vulnerability is present in my own life or in someone else’s life, either in the real world or in the fictional world of a book, TV show, or movie. Any vulnerability I write is inspired by feelings I’ve felt or witnessed.

Barbara the Slut and Other People

JD: I also feel like this book sends the message that there’s a thin line between shame and vulnerability. How do you see the relationship between those two feelings?

LH: I think vulnerability can come from fear of shame. Both vulnerability and shame are such inevitable and universal parts of the human condition. And that’s what I wanted to say by exploring these feelings in my stories—everybody feels these things, they’re unavoidable, they’re human, they’re important, and they’re okay.

JD: Moving from feelings to words, we Americans have a rich history of using words as weapons, to dehumanize and disenfranchise people. I’m thinking particularly of the word “slut,” which is spray-painted across your book jacket. In your opinion, why do words have this effect on people?

LH: Words are fucking powerful. I’m sure there are exhaustive explanations for why words have the effect that they do, but to me, the enormous and dangerous power of words is a basic fact of humanity.

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JD: The word slut has come to mean, in my opinion anyway, a catchall insult for a woman that’s representative of a larger cultural mistrust of female power. What do you think about the word slut?

LH: Well said. I agree. “Slut” is such a powerful word because the shame we assign to female sexuality is so powerful. “Woman who has sex” shouldn’t be an insult, but of course it is. And you’re right, now “slut” seems like it’s becoming one of many bad words for “woman.” But that generalized usage doesn’t soften the original meaning and power of the word…

 

Barbara the Slut and Other PeopleTo read the rest of the interview, click here

Excerpt courtesy of Electric Literature

Barbara the Slut is out now!

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