Narrative 10

What a joy it is to share with you, our readers, this N10 interview with Narrative’s longtime contributing editor Lacy Crawford, as we mark the publication of her stunning new memoir, Notes on a Silencing.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

Caroline Bell, in Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus. My favorite real-life character is the Bulgarian dog trainer Ivan Balabanov.

2. A line (that you or someone else wrote) that continues to inspire you?

“I told you I wanted to live in world in which the antidote to shame is not honor, but honesty.” (Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts)

3. The story, book, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time? What did it teach you?

Toni Morrison’s Beloved. My reading range was so narrow when I was assigned it in school; I was too young, too blind, to fully experience the incantation.

4. Best part of the day?

8:47 p.m., reading to my little boys.

5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

A run through the hills with the dog.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?
On the page: Once, if, yet, while, secretly, never, I, wish, could have.
In life: Please, sleep, I love you, thank you for telling me.

7. What’s your current obsession?

The Netflix series Unorthodox and Shtisel.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

“Nobody asked you to write.” It wasn’t meant as criticism, but it sure felt that way, received in the wake of rejection. Over time, I realized it was a magic key. I was so accustomed in my life to doing things people asked of me—in school, at home, in society. I could find my way to my writing only by doing it in the knowledge that nobody had asked me, that I was not assigned or obligated or in any way important. Only then could I play.

9. What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten; and/or what do you know now that you wish you knew then?

The joy of being in an ungendered body. Age twelve, long before puberty, zooming across soccer fields or along wooded paths at my all-girls summer camp: a freedom I’ve never regained.

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

This is not mine, but someone I admire a great deal once suggested that love was “a conversation that we never wish to end.” I didn’t know what to make of this until I met my husband. The conversation we began that night is the great pleasure of my life.

Finally, is there a short poem or passage from Notes on a Silencing that you’d like to share with our readers?

What I wanted was to find some way to release my peers from their shame. I wanted to show them the secret letter buried in each of their files, the one where the institution aligned against them determined how to keep them quiet, this blueprint of patriarchal silence.