Interview with Marya Hornbacher: Author of the Pulitzer-Nominated Memoir, “Wasted” (Part 1)
April 11, 2010
Wednesday morning, I sat at my desk telling myself I wasn’t dreaming. I had the phone number of my favorite author, Marya Hornbacher, 36, dialed on my phone. All I needed to do was press “send.”
Almost ten minutes later I was still sitting there, still holding my phone. It was 10:17 am and we had agreed I would call her at 10:15. I panicked that Hornbacher would think I had forgotten her. I pushed “send” before another minute could pass.
I don’t particularly like talking on the phone, especially with people I do not know. I still throw a fit every time my mom asks me to call my grandma to tell her we’re running late. But in the past year, I’ve had to do many phone interviews for my classes, and–albeit slowly–I am getting over my phone anxiety.
But as I sat there Wednesday morning, phone ringing and heart racing, I was sure I would hang up when I heard Hornbacher’s voice. She is the author of two memoirs, “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia” and “Madness: A Bipolar Life,” as well as a novel, “The Center of Winter,” all of which I own. “Wasted” is my favorite memoir and one of my favorite books. I’ve read Hornbacher’s words for years and I even met her at a book signing almost two years ago, which is why the fact that I was calling her was making me physically ill.
Fortunately for both of us, I managed not to drop the phone from my shaking hands and forced out a hello. Hornbacher, an incredibly fast talker, kindly answered my basic introductory questions and seemed genuinely excited to speak with me about memoir.
What followed was a 20 minute conversation that erased all my feelings of nervousness. Because I know Hornbacher’s books so well, I–wrongly–assumed that I knew her as well. It wasn’t until I asked Hornbacher if she thought “Wasted” had made her famous that I began to realize that this interview was just like all the others I had conducted with people I do not know:
I don’t know what fame is. I don’t feel famous. I’m just sitting here on my deck listening to birds. Fame happens outside of you, in someone else’s mind; it doesn’t happen to you. Certainly I’m aware a lot of people have read my books. In terms of how that relates to me as a person? I don’t think it relates to me as a person, it relates to my book.
Despite reading intimate details of her life and having her sign my copy of “Madness,” I do not know Hornbacher. I know about her struggles with addiction and mental illness, but I do not know her. Because memoirists often write about such personal experiences, it’s easy for readers to feel connected to the book, and therefore the author as well. But memoirs, unlike autobiography, show only a glimpse of the author’s life.
I started this entry with the intention of posting some of my interview with Hornbacher, but after babbling on for so long about myself, I’m going to make the interview into a separate post.