Jennifer Spiegel’s Glasnost is featured in the May issue and she talks about her work, Russia, and the presumptions of perception.
1. What was your intent in “Glasnost” in showing everyone’s present and future?
This is the serious question. Are you sure you wanna ask it first? I guess that, if anyone were to ask, “Glasnost” is about the power of perception/intuition and how it stands in relation to reason. What is the place of perception? What is the role of intuition? Originally, I was thinking about whether or not a “good” artist must be perceptive–and what does it mean to be perceptive? Is there a connection between being perceptive and judging others’ motives, second-guessing their intentions based on actions or gestures or tone of voice or something else? Is being perceptive a virtue?
In the story, Elizabeth is perceptive–and this is revealed, I hope–in her present story. But the future reveals the limits of her abilities; as perceptive as she was, she couldn’t know certain things about the people on the train. That said, she DID know some things. Though I undercut perceptive abilities in some ways, my intention is to show that there is something to be said for intuition and perception; there is beauty and even wisdom in it. Part of its beauty is its artistic potential.
The interplay, if you will, of perception versus reason based on non-sensory experience is there throughout. Though I’m eager to point out the thematic threads, I’ll resist–except to point out two: she’s regarded as a whore twice based on perceptions, and I sorta like that she has no clue where she is ABOVE ground–in the real world–but, in the subways, BENEATH the surface, she gets it.
2. Is Russia really built on vodka and sadness?
But it’s more interesting to ask why the sadness? Why the vodka?
3. Are you yourself called perceptive and presumptuous all in the same sentence?
Hmm. That’s pretty personal, PANK people. I’ve been called both, I think, but by different people. It may have been thought by the same people in the same sentence, but it would be presumptuous of me to make that guess. This, though, is one of those things. Aren’t many, many, many writers perceptive and presumptuous? And, while we’re on the subject, isn’t there a fine line between narcissism and self-hatred? Am I getting weird?
4. What is the strangest career you wanted to grow up into?
Foreign service. Strange for me, anyway. I went so far as to get the degrees and take the foreign service exam (which I failed). I don’t know what I was thinking. It may have had its roots in seeing episodes of “Charlie’s Angels” and then some James Bond flicks. The glamor, the world travel, the word “diplomacy” then morphed into my Eighties affair with Live Aid, Band Aid, Amnesty International, Free Nelson Mandela, etceteras–and, the next thing you know, I’m thinking I’ll save the world through politics. By being in the foreign service!
Insane! Thankfully, I changed course DRAMATICALLY. I teach English and write now. And the world is much better this way.
5. Is Louisiana the new Russia?
I’m sad to say I have no opinion. It’s a world I know so little about. The South, Louisiana, New Orleans. I can romanticize the past and even the present, but it’s all in my head. I think of Louisiana and envision the cliches, black and white photos, news reels, etc I know Russia better.