Texas Book Festival 2012 author Ian Frazier talks candidly with Austin American-Statesman’s Nicole Villalpando about his book The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days in his article, published below.
“New Yorker writer Ian Frazier talks cussing, parenting for “Cursing Mommy” book”
By Nicole Villalpando
The first thing Ian Frazier wants you to know about his new book, “The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days,” is his wife is not the Cursing Mommy. In fact, she’s much more even-tempered than his title character, which first appeared as a column in the New Yorker in 2009. Now, his wife’s book group, that’s another story.
Frazier, who has been writing for the New Yorker since 1974, took inspiration from the book group, his sisters, the people in his neighborhood in Montclair, N.J., and himself (the more cursing parent in his house) when he created Cursing Mommy.
She’s a woman on the edge. She deeply loves her family, but they’re not working with her. Husband Larry is obsessed with vintage capacitors, which gets in the way of his actual job that pays the bills. Son Trevor could be expelled at any moment. Younger son Kyle is probably the most well-adjusted of all of them, but his school is always requiring parents to roll up their sleeves and do manual labor. And her father, whom she wasn’t close to, has named her his medical power of attorney and he just won’t die. All of this sends Cursing Mommy over the edge, and the profanity follows.
“Book of Days” is her diary for the year. Each day she starts with the optimism that today will be a great day. Each day, shortly into the day, something catastrophic has happened that usually ends with her lying on the floor. She is cursing the inanimate objects around her, her loved ones and the Bush administration.
Cursing Mommy is a joyful departure for Frazier, whose last book “Travels in Siberia,” was 17 years in the making. He took trips to Russia and even learned Russian. Frazier came to the 2010 Texas Book Festival to talk about that book and loved being at a festival that was downtown and had a crowd of people who knew his work. The festival is not Frazier’s only connection to Texas. After Frazier did a 1983 profile on the domestic columnist Heloise for the New Yorker, he donated his research papers to Texas State University in San Marcos.
After the laborious research that came with “Travels in Siberia” and some of his other books, Frazier needed a change of pace. “I wanted to sit down and not have any notes and write something at a rush,” he says of “Cursing Mommy.” He thinks of it more as comedy improv and likens it to when he went on “The Colbert Report” to talk about “Travels in Siberia,” without a script, just two guys bantering. “There are moments of writing that are just your lives, almost like an improv routine. It’s as if you’re doing it live.”
Frazier started on page one and wrote straight through, a year’s worth of entries. Cursing Mommy had to be a mommy and not a daddy, because Frazier says, “There’s something about Dad cursing that’s scary in a way Mom cursing isn’t. Dad doesn’t start from sweetness and light like Mom does. Plus dads have always cursed.”
One of his favorite characters in literature is Pap Finn, Huck’s father in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” He also points to David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” He enjoys the poetry of cussing, and he says, having a woman doing it is somewhat newer. After all, the women in his mother’s generation would never curse.
Frazier, who was born in 1951, says “People in my generation just curse more. You can still be a very conscientious mother, but just fly off the handle. You’re not going to say, ‘golly, shucks.’”
He says he see this cultural shift of women taking up cursing as being part of women entering the workforce and needing to have more things in common with men. “Women would pick (up cursing) in order to seem forceful, and not to seem wimpy.”
He realized that his generation was different than his parents’ when he and his wife moved their children to Montana while he was working on the book “Great Plains.” His children had become friends with a Mormon family whose parents were very careful about what they said. One day, his wife cursed after being cut off in traffic, and his children’s friends later noted to his daughter, “Your mommy cursed.”
Some of the inspiration for “Cursing Mommy” also comes with Frazier’s work on the Heloise profile. Frazier read many of the original Heloise columns and loved details like, “all the furniture polish in a world won’t put a glean back in your husband’s eye.”
He sees Cursing Mommy as someone who exists in the real world, and he’s just absorbing her. “The world created her, I didn’t,” he says.
Yet, there is an element of fantasy to her. For example, you cannot really drink as much as Cursing Mommy without heading on the downward spiral of alcoholism, yet “at the end of the day, who really doesn’t want a drink, sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes in the morning,” he says.
And some of the things she does, like sit in her car and scream, or take on the health insurance CEO, we cannot really do in real life.
Yet, every time the cake doesn’t turn out, the kids need one more thing for school, the bills don’t seem to get paid, isn’t there a little Cursing Mommy in all of us?
See the original article here.