Episode 56 - Vendela Vida: Part 1


Vendela Vida is a novelist, editor (of The Believer magazine), screenwriter, literacy advocate (via 826 Valencia). She is also a wife, of the similarly busy writer Dave Eggers, and mother. Given all these roles, it seems miraculous that she has written one book much less six, including the novels And Now You Can Go, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Lovers.

We met to discuss her newest book, The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty. Set in Casablanca, we follow a young woman on the run from herself. This figurative sense of escape is made real when her backpack is stolen from a hotel lobby, including all the documents that establish her identity. Her subsequent adventures include absurd exchanges with the local place, even more absurd conversations on a film-set, where, almost inevitably, she plays a stand-in for someone else.

Funny, parenthetical, and quietly moving, The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty is also autobiographical, Vida revealed in this first episode. At a loss where to start I began by asking about the title, a quote from Rumi. We moved onwards to:

  • finding titles in poetry
  • the literary potential of diving
  • our (anonymous) lead character
  • a brief summary of the novel
  • loneliness, travel and identity
  • why Casablanca? 'I went to Casablanca...'
  • how losing a backpack, novel and possessions inspired a novel about losing a backpack...
  • why the New York Times means nothing to Casablanca's police
  • how autobiographical is the novel?
  • the strange power of losing objects, including unfinished novels
  • film crews: why unreality can look more real than reality

Part 2 to follow.

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