It’s a really interesting thing because people read my work and they feel like they know me, and on one hand they do; on one hand, they’re connecting with me. That voice behind that story is me. I actually am telling you this about my life, and to a certain extent you can — if you like me on the page, you’ll probably like me in person because I’m like that. But I’m also a person, and so there’s a whole aspect of myself that can’t possibly be in a work. That’s a funny terrain. It’s also kind of a one-sided relationship. People know they feel close to me, and so I get a lot of people who — just strangers who write to me and say, “I hear you’re coming to my town; I would love to cook dinner for you at my house.” Which is sweet, and every once in a while maybe something like that would work out, like I would meet somebody who then became a great friend. But I never say yes; I’m always like, “Absolutely not,” because it’s like, we don’t even have a relationship. I’m not their friend. It’s very complex, isn’t it?
It surprises me that people sometimes don’t understand that more, because we are constructing these identities all the time online. I have that a bit too, and it’s always a little surprising to me. And I struggle against that myself, where I’m like, “But you don’t know me.”
Exactly. You don’t. And yet reading you, there are things that we all know about you, and so it’s not entirely true that we don’t know you at all. That’s what’s so weird. But also people bring themselves to it.
So for example, as Sugar over and over and over again I have positioned myself as somebody who hasn’t had a perfect life and has made wrong choices and still struggles with all kinds of different things, and then people will say, “Oh Sugar’s a goddess!” Or they’ll be like, “Your marriage is just perfect.”
And I’ll be like, “No I’ve written about it, you can see how it’s not.” So they’re projecting, I know this because I get this quite a lot: “Do you ever mess up?” I’ll say, “Do you ever read the column? I write about messing up.”
So the thing with now being “Cheryl Strayed” is my self-identity hasn’t caught up with what people are thinking of me because I’m always kind of taken aback. I have been in many lines, signing lines, where I meet this author who I’m like so nervous about meeting because I love them so much and I’m like, “Hi, I love your books,” and I feel like an idiot and stuff. But now I’m that way. People will say, “I’m so nervous to meet you,” and I’m always like, “Why? Are you kidding?”
That seems like such a healthy attitude to have about it. Another thing I was thinking about a lot before talking to you is, I don’t know if you’ve read Nick Flynn’s new book, The Reenactments.
I haven’t read it yet. I really have to read it. Is it good?
It is, it is good.
What is it about?