Rookie Report: Victoria Loustalot
This is How You Say Goodbye
St. Martin’s Press
When the changes in my dad came, they seemed to arrive overnight. I turned my head for only a moment, and when I turned back I didn’t recognize him. He had been back in Sacramento for only a couple of years when his hair seemed to disappear. It got thin and silky but there was just so little of it – like infant hair. I found his hair everywhere but especially on the bathroom floor where clumps stuck to the bottom of my bare, clammy feet. His body deflated like a popped balloon and his bones withered. I gave him a secret nickname: Hollow Man. He gave up driving. He no longer sat up straight. Pill bottles multiplied on his nightstand. After [elementary] school, when I sat with him on his bed, I pretended to do my math homework but, really, I was watching him breathe, as if by watching I could keep his chest rising and falling forever.
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Victoria Loustalot: A worldwide trip to find my dad and myself.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
VL: Setting aside the scientific impossibility of a lovechild with three biological parents, on my most confident days I like to think that my book could have been the result of a torrid threesome with Philip Roth’s extraordinary memoir Patrimony, Jeannette Walls’ beautiful book The Glass Castle, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s moving Eat, Pray, Love. Certainly those three books inspired my work. Whether my book can ever be considered worthy of such comparisons is not for me to say but rather the readers.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
VL: A heaping helping of research, way more candor than you think you need and then even a little more than that, a handful of humor (with extra for garnish), and a pinch of attitude for bite.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
VL: Dispatches by Michael Herr, which is truly one of the best books about war ever written. And one that feels all the more valuable right now as we consider Syria…
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
VL: Who’s the most underrated writer currently writing in America: Eula Biss! I’m on a campaign to get everyone I meet to read both her books—The Balloonists (2002) and Notes From No Man’s Land (2009). She is a stunning writer, who is pure pleasure to read. She also happens to be incredibly wise.
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VICTORIA LOUSTALOT is a 28-year-old journalist and author living in New York City. She earned her B.A. and M.F.A. from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Onion as well as online for Women’s Wear Daily, Glamour Magazine, and Publishers Weekly among many others. She also wrote The New Yorker’s daily literary blog in 2008 and 2009.