Leslie Jamison earned her MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and, more recently, pursued a PhD in literature at Yale University, where her research focused on addiction narratives. She is the author of a novel, The Gin Closet (2010), and the essay collection The Empathy Exams (2014), as well as two forthcoming works of nonfiction: Archive Lush, which entwines cultural criticism, literary analysis, and journalistic reportage with Jamison’s own narrative, and Ghost Essays, a collection that centers on haunting and obsession, love and loneliness. The Gin Closet was chosen by the San Francisco Chronicle as a Best Book of 2010 and as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The Empathy Exams won the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize; reached #11 on the New York Times bestseller list; and garnered praise from The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Cosmopolitan Magazine, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, Book Riot, and many, many other publications. Jamison is a columnist for The New York Times Book Review, and her work has appeared in magazines and journals including Harper’s, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times, A Public Space, Oxford American, The Believer, and more. She currently resides above a smoke shop in Brooklyn.
Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?
What are they drinking? Might depend on what they’re drinking. Is the nun on her sixth shot? Does the penguin have a tell-tale seltzer? I’d probably say my work is interested in the difficulties of intimacy, the struggle to get outside our own lives, and the way we (all of us) are always reckoning with the complicated experience of living in a body.