American writer AM Homes pushed a lot of literary buttons in her time, unafraid to raise questions that haunt, hurt, and ultimately heal us.
her new book unfold (Viking) is released this month, and it’s her first since winning the 2013 Women’s Prize for Literature for her sixth novel Please forgive us (Her new book will be her thirteenth.) At the time, the jury chair described her work as “a dazzling, original and deeply funny black comedy – a subversion of the American dream.”
She is ready to dazzle again unfold Which could not have emerged at a more meaningful time, addressing issues of American power and identity, alternative realities and the search for a re-examination of what words like truth, freedom, and democracy really mean.
located in 2008, unfold The film revolves around The Big Guy, a lover of family, money, and country, whose results fall back into the 2008 presidential election, when John McCain lost to Barack Obama. The Big Guy intervenes with a group of like-minded men to restore their version of the American Dream. looks familiar? Homes says she wrote the book before the events that erupted on the Capitol in January of 2021. The book also weaves a compelling narrative about family and the bonds that bind—sometimes blindly.
Writer writer living in New York City and East Hampton, Homes teaches at Princeton, serves on several literary boards, has worked on television projects for HBO, FX and CBS and was a writer/producer for the Showtime series. L word. Her work appears frequently in The The New York TimesAnd the New Yorker And the art forum She is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, among other publications. Several times a year she collaborates on book projects with artists such as Eric Fishel, Rachel Whitread and Michael Chilpin.
She also appreciated a good bowl of egg whites on Main Beach in East Hampton while watching the sunrise and whale spray.
We caught up with AM Homes on the phone to talk about her new book, what motivated her to write, her friendship with the late Edward Albee and what she loves about the East End.
People have described your writing as “bold,” “haunting,” “bold,” and “funny.” How do you see yourself?
I try not to look in the mirror. (laughs) I honestly don’t see myself. It’s a good question, it’s also a complicated question. In some ways, I feel like a somewhat identityless person. I’m adoptive, I grew up in a family where a child died – very complicated. This is a literal question.
As a writer, I’m really a fiction writer, so for the most part – unless I purposely write non-fiction and memoirs – I’m not part of the story, if that makes sense.
Yes it is. But in terms of publishing your stories and what motivates you to write – where does that come from?
In every way, I write in relation to the world we live in and the moment we are in and I always try to understand it in some way and I would like to have an instant conversation about it. I never suppose I have answers for why our world is the way it is or why people are angry on the road or why people drive badly in the Hamptons in the summer. (laughs) What’s the problem with that? They’re like seagulls in (finding) Nemo where they’re like “my, mine, mine!”
I think I want to make work that stimulates conversation and questions. On the one hand, it’s very serious, but I feel that in order to be serious, I also need a break in humor and I want to tone down the humor.
With all the things you wrote down, don’t be shy about the tough “stuff”.
no i don’t. I kind of think I might feel a little compelled to talk about the things we don’t talk about because I know it’s hard to talk about. But I also think we don’t make much progress if we avoid it.
This new book is in many ways about what happens when people fear losing power and how far they will go to maintain that power.
Like the big red-headed man in Florida…
the correct. It’s pretty intense in that sense and I started it before Trump was really in sight as a presidential candidate. It took me a long time to write, and as it all unfolded, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to write a reaction to that, so I had to figure out how to write like this without being reactionary.
It’s fun and hard…I feel like the political establishment has lost touch with the average American and at the same time there’s been incredible amounts of dark money or unaccounted money pouring into the political system and having a huge impact. And I think that’s really part of what happened.
He. She (unfold) It’s really a story about the family also kind of disintegrating and in its disintegration there’s a bigger truth, so that’s great for me – they know each other and themselves and there’s more humanity in that and the possibility.
Have you always been a writer – how did that develop?
I wanted to be in the Rolling Stones and they had a very low vacancy rate so that didn’t happen. (laughs) I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. I had an award winning play produced when I was 19, I wrote my first novel, jackwhich was one of the 100 most banned books in the country and is still on the most recent list of books they want banned in Texas.
What do you think about banning all this latest book?
I think the idea of banning books is a very peculiar effort to control people’s access to knowledge, thought, and information and to cultivate their own perspectives, so I think that’s dangerous, destructive, and fundamentally unacceptable. Children will find their way to the information and stories they need to read in order to help them learn who they are – which is part of the reason we read. Obviously we read for entertainment but obviously finding ourselves or finding our way into other worlds that makes me very sad. And it looks very strange, apparently, not useful.
What drew you to the East End?
I first went there in 1985 and I’ve been there regularly ever since…Part of it was history and art history. I am a huge fan of de Kooning and a fan of Bullock, and the idea of being in this place and in that light was very compelling to me.
And then Edward Albee who was there—and still is—there was a writer’s retreat in Montauk and I was there twice as a writer, as a very young writer, and Edward was very supportive of my work and also taboos and taboos of the limits my work pushed and that meant a lot to me, an enormous amount, because It was kind of a vote of confidence in what I was doing so early on. This is something I would say is hard to come by these days.
What keeps you out of the East?
I will say it was the beach, nature, trees and literally watching the seasons develop that got me past COVID. I spent March of 2020 on my sofa looking out the window. I was really sick…but being there changed me both physically and spiritually. And for me it’s really about light and the cycle of nature.
I have bird feeders and I love that I have had, as I describe them, the same customers every day for several years that I have not noticed before. I never slowed down enough to notice that the same blue jay, the same woodpecker, would come. In that sense, it sounds corny, but it really lifts my heart. So there is this part.
Any East End favorite you can share?
My favorite this summer at Main Beach – the restaurant will stay open later so some nights it’s open until 8am. The food is actually very good and they also make breakfast at 8am; They make a great egg white bowl…they also make avocado toast which is surprisingly good. And at night they have wine now which is obviously shockingly new on the beach and you can sit there and watch the sunset and it’s so beautiful, it’s a completely different crowd and they have Saturday at the beach on Friday and concerts on Tuesday.
As much as posh East Hampton and you know a lot of these guys, whatever, I also really like the mix of local people – the cops who come in for an egg sandwich for breakfast and the little old lady who can’t walk all the way to the beach so you come and sit under the umbrella. And it’s just the best.
AM Homes New Book unfold (Viking) comes out September 6, 2022. On Friday, October 28 at 6:30 p.m., you’ll be in conversation with writer Jill Bialowski at church in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit amhomes.com.