Trisha Low, a 2011 College graduate, has just published her first book, “Compleat Purge”. The Daily Pennsylvanian chatted with Low about teenage girls, diaries and the female wound.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: Your book is in three parts. Tell us a bit more about the structure of the book and how the three parts came about.
Trisha Low: I was really … thinking a lot about the structure of the wound at the time or at least the feminine wound as it has been conceived historically, but also in relation to certain assumptions about femininity and emotionality and things like that … I wrote an essay about the band-aid in relationship to the fetishization of the wound and the three-part structure mirrors the way that I think this works. So, the wounding and then the process of wounding and the band-aid over wounding. Obviously it gets a little muddled in the middle because these processes, like psychological processes, are really complicated. But basically, what I would say is that I’m interested in processional wounding rather than the fetishization of the wounding.
Also, I just like a three-part structure. I think I read a lot of theatre when I was younger and I’m very interested in tragedy and the three-act structure of tragedy, or at least that formulaic mode from which one produces intensity.
DP: What is the female wound?
TL: I think the simplest way to understand it is just to think about woman as an absence … physiologically or otherwise. To think about what woman is in opposition to the phallus, which would be Freud’s conception of it.
But I was more interested in the processes by which women wound themselves or undergo self harm, the idea that there is no recourse for expression apart from wounding oneself and that creation of absence within absence as a means of remaining. So if we think of women as being historically silenced, that’s a way of speaking your wound while remaining silent…
DP: The first part of the book consists of wills made up of letters to various people within your life. Were they written at the time or written later?
TL: I don’t like to talk about this so much … My point of interest would be more like, ‘Was that really interesting to you’? Were you really preoccupied by the fact that I could have written these? The first one, I could have written it when I was seven. Did I write it when I was seven? Does it matter to you whether or not these letters are “authentic?” Did they help you generate any fantasy of book me?
DP: Since the book is based on experiences you have had, did you draw any of it from your own writings in the past, such as personal journals or diaries?
TL: I think the diaristic is super important to me in thinking about a tradition of women’s writing that has been private. I’m interested in the history of confessional writing and going back to the eighteenth century and thinking about books like “Pamela”. “Pamela” was written by a man but … it’s a diary of a servant girl who has learned to write and is sort of writing to her parents … the reason it became so popular was because it was the private life of a woman as fantasized by a man.
DP: Why did you choose the structure of wills rather than diary entries for the first section in the book?
TL: I was interested in formalizing it in a way. I was thinking a lot of about remnants of excess and legalization. What makes something voiced? What makes it apparent? How does something that’s excessive and emotional and feminine … exist in tension with something that is a very structured form. That’s all about the conceptualization of what you leave behind or the conceptualization of a human as they leave themselves behind.
DP: The third volume has the tone of a romance novel, a departure from the other two volumes. Can you tell us what your thought process was behind the third section?
TL: I was interested in the codification of [the] gushy emotional style and also the history of the confessional and all that stuff. If volume one is a lot of teen girl speak and a lot of “I love you. I hate you. Let’s get a coke” diary language, how does that relate to an amatory novel, a novel that was designed to … be didactic and teach girls things [in the 18th century]? So [in these books] a girl makes a terrible mistake and gets pregnant and dies, right? There’s a moral at the end of that story, but in the process there is a lot of delight in how the girl gets herself pregnant. It’s almost like a Jilly Cooper novel or a 50 Shades … all of the delight and eroticism is couched in this teaching [of] didactic structure.
In the last volume, I tried to pile on as much of that as possible … I wanted the language to feel really material, sort of like an accumulation of all the things that you need to pile on to a woman’s experience. Some of that is artificial and some of that is super ornate in the same way that someone might pile on jewelry or makeup or something like that.
DP: When I bought a copy of your book at the Penn Book Center, they told me there was still a stain on the carpet from the fake blood you used at a reading you once did. Can you describe this reading to us?
TL: I feel bad about that because I told them it would come out, but it didn’t.
DP: They seemed kind of proud of it.
TL: I did my masters in performance studies. The way that I think about my writing and my inspirations tend to be more performance-oriented…
In my presentation of self when I do a reading, [during] which I often go off script, I do a lot of different things than I do in the book. The book is a performance in a certain way. The way that it is designed tells a story in a very particular way and the way that I perform it tells a different story I would say. It’s two completely different experiences.
DP: We hear that you’re coming to Kelly Writers House in February to do a reading?
I am coming to the Writers house in February with my friend Joey Yearous-Algozin who is amazing … He’s part of the Troll Thread Collective … I’m going to get really sentimental and gushy right now…
I spent a lot of my time at Penn at the Writers House. It was super important to me. I loved a lot of people there and so it … means a lot to me to be able to do a reading there. I learned a lot there and … I might do one or two new things. I don’t know where I’m going to go yet. The way that I work is that I think about performance on a lot of different levels but I feel like this project was very all-encompassing
DP: Are there any other aspects of the book that you want to address?
TL: I think that it is important to note that I’m probably lying … it’s an intentionally open ended book in a lot of different ways. I think that the way that the cover is really exemplifies this … This is my favorite thing about the book … It’s this white … barbie gloss. I wear a lot of lipstick. I usually get it on everything. All my books have lipstick on them. And this one just hasn’t taken to it. It wipes right off. Blood would come off that cover. It’s just so wipeable.
A previous version of this article misspelled Trisha Low’s name as Tricia Low.Comments powered by Disqus
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