Interview with Linas Alsenas, author of Beyond Clueless
18 Sep 2015
It’s a fun, funny novel that largely revolves around a theatrical production of “Into the Woods” at a Catholic girls’ school in suburban Ohio. The plot hinges on how the narrator, Marty, and her best friend, Jimmy, are trying to maintain the their friendship as they begin attending separate schools. Jimmy begins dating a boy and developing a new group of gay friends, while Marty is just getting into life at an all-girls’ school and trying to figure out how move forward with a handsome guy who’s taken an interest in her. There’s deception, romance, drama and a gay twist – what’s not to love?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m too old for it to have been given to me in the usual way, but “It Gets Better” is the best advice I know of. It’s almost exactly the same as “this, too, shall pass”, which – classic Linas – I only recently learned did not originate as a line spoken by the bellhop in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Apparently it’s Shakespeare, or some famous quote from history? (I’m the worst.)
Say you’re the host of a talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Oooh, hard question. Ummm… oh! I know! Oprah Winfrey. That way I’d be pretty sure she’d be able to smooth over the inevitable awkward pauses and clunker questions. I’d ask her for advice about hosting a talk show.
Who are your literary heroes?
Maurice Sendak is someone I truly admire, not just for his picture books but also for the person that he was. I really love works by Jane Austen, Philip Pullman, Gregory Maguire, Jonathan Stroud, David Sedaris… although, to be fair, I’ll basically love anything with a strong narrating voice.
Which books are currently on your nightstand?
It’s a really big, eclectic pile: George by Alex Gino, The Incarnations by Susan Barker, Ulysses by James Joyce (it’s for a book club, I swear!), Hold Me Closer by David Levithan, Anyone but Ivy Pocket by Caleb Crisp, Egg and Spoon by Gregory McGuire, The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber, and an advance reading copy of The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman.
Where is your favourite spot in London? Why does it bring you joy?
It’s probably a too-cheesy answer, but St. James Park. My husband and I would go there every day on a long walk after we had just arrived in the UK two years ago and didn’t yet have jobs. We’re both very fond of birds (we used to have parrots in Sweden), so feeding the ducks, geese and other birds there was ridiculously pleasant. On a related note, I am really looking forward to being elderly.
How do you like to spend a rainy day?
Binge-watching a TV show, occasionally interrupted by deeply unhealthy but impossibly satisfying meals. Ideally in a place with a metal roof, so I can actually hear the rain, and with a view outdoors so we can watch other people get wet. (Kidding!) And/or of course reading a book, but no one wants to hear that!
What’s your favourite quote or scene from Beyond Clueless?
I think my favourite scene is one in which the main character, Marty, hangs out with her best friend Jimmy and his new group of friends. One of the boys, Oliver, is a photographer for the school paper, and he’s been assigned to provide photos for an article on the school’s annual social survey. Marty and the boys spend the evening acting out different expressions for getting drunk and partying – getting sauced, making out, painting the town red, etc – but interpreting the expressions literally. I think it’s funny, and pretty representative of creative, silly, random moments that you encounter as a teen; those are often the moments we remember and treasure most.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Sadly, no. I’m a total goldfish where nuggets of wisdom are involved, kind of like with jokes. But one quote that I do remember for being hilariously irreverent is Dorothy Parker’s amazing “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
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Taylor loves books with a heavy dose of absurdity, hilarity, and beautiful prose. She is a marketer, adventurer, nature-lover, Hufflepuff, wannabe world traveler, and advocate of laughter.