Episode 01 - Karen Joy Fowler: Part One


Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is one of 2014's most memorable and lauded novels. Having received rave reviews across the world, it won the Pen/Faulkner in the United States and then became one of the first works by an American to be shortlisted for the Man Booker. 

Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke, an introverted college student drifting through life. Slowly, she reveals that her isolation springs from her unconventional upbringing. Her father is an animal behaviourist, her mother is traumatised, her brother has gone Awol and her sister, Fern, has vanished entirely. The implication that Fern’s disappearance lies at the heart of her dysfunction is explained in a beautifully judged twist, not so much in the tail as the head. 

I talked to Karen on the day We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was published in the United Kingdom. She was in suitably celebratory mood, sipping prosecco as we discussed (in part one): 

  • the origins of the story, 
  • how her father and her daughter helped shape the novel, 
  • how formative experiences playing with rats in her father's lab informed the book,
  • that title, 
  • the real scientific experiment that inspired the story,
  • twists in the tale,
  • how to structure a narrative,
  • humour,
  • Kafka, Robertson Davies and literary other allusions,
  • Bob Dylan's lyrics,
  • and how Chewbacca is discriminated against in Star Wars

There was also a false start and the distinct sound of bubbly being drunk. 
Part two to follow. 
Karen Joy Fowler's website is: here.

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