I interview her at her home Sept. 24.
She says she’d rather interview than be interviewed.
Rachel: "I teach a lot. One of the things that gives me huge pleasure is drawing people out or letting them have breakthroughs and revealing things about themselves.
"Now I am going to give you all these. There’s nothing left for me to reveal after spilling my guts on the page with this book… Because people do get defensive when being interviewed and aren’t used to be listened to, particularly in this city."
Luke: "Nice place you got here."
Rachel: "When I was a kid, I read Magic Mountain. I always wanted to be sent away to a place like that."
Luke: "How long have you been here?"
Rachel: "Eleven years."
Luke: "I was scared to death driving up here. It was frightening."
Rachel: "Aside from being a love junkie, I’m sure I’m an adrenalin junkie. I like driving fast on curves…"
Luke: "Along mountain roads next to the edge."
We talk about sex addiction.
Rachel: "[Singer] Alanis Morriset, her name album Flavors of Entanglement, she proclaimed that she was a love addict. This whole album sprang from a breakup with an actor. She came up with her own cure for being a love addict — have no-strings attached sex for a year… So maybe she’ll start a new rehab center that has that featured…"
Luke: "It’s interesting that in all the people you talked about, it is the men with the sex addiction and the women with the love addiction."
Rachel: "It’s a new addiction that’s coming to light… It’s talked about as a brain disease, which I concur with.
"Women need to have an emotional component, to make it hot, to kick this whole thing into gear."
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Rachel: "When I was four, I was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and a fortune teller asked me that and I said, ‘Brain surgeon.’ She said, ‘Great. If you stay on that path, you’ll be successful. If you don’t, you won’t.’
"I’ve never gotten over that…until I thought, ‘Maybe a writer could be considered a brain surgeon.’
"I’m very superstitious.
"The other thing I’ve always wanted to be is a writer.
"My father says that when I was four, I pointed my finger at my father and said, ‘I’m going to write about all of this one day.’
"I was pissed. The opening word for my essay to get into the MFA program was, ‘Revenge. That’s why I write.’
"That’s not why I write now but it was then, 1991."
Luke: "Anger is great fuel for writing."
Rachel: "It can be but not for what I just wrote."
Luke: "What did your parents expect from you?"
Rachel: "Perfection. They were so young. They met in a Shakespeare class. He was at Columbia. She was at Barnard. She got pregnant. They were in their early twenties when they had me. They were not well matched."
Rachel’s parents split when she was four.
Her father makes his living teaching Talmud in New York City. He never completed his PhD at Columbia.
Luke: "Before I read your memoir, I read all of your fiction. When I read your memoir, I was struck by the similarities with your fiction."
Rachel: "There’s no question there are similarities because I write close to the bone. That’s something that fuels my writing also — scraping away all the bulls—. Go for the jugular. I’ve always admired poets the most of all the writers because they just cut through everything. Growing up, everyone was lying… Why was everyone drinking in the morning? I hated denial.
"One of the things I loved about poets was that they were flaying their psyches, they were stripping everything away, they were using themselves, which I think is fair, other people is a whole other question… I felt there were a lot of layers I could draw from that could bring some pulse and beat to what I was writing."
Luke: "In all your stories I read, all the leading female protagonists were love addicts."
Rachel: "Yeah, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know there was such a thing. One reason that the memoir came into being, it was a door of perception that opened. It opened when I used the word addict for myself, when I felt it, when I walked into one of the rooms for 12 step programs, where they gather people who have issues with sex, distorting it, using it, getting high from it, it’s not about relating to another person. It’s that element of brain disease. A complete distortion.
"I never even recognized the chemicals, the rush that I would get when I was around someone who would resonate, another damaged soul. Yeah! We can really destroy each other. Those ecstatic flames. You recognize that. But I didn’t until I walked into those rooms and identified with everyone who was talking. Goddamnit, I thought it was them. There was that victim thing for years. I would be involved with people who were addicts, alcoholics. Hey, they’re shooting up! It’s not me. I just love them. I’m sticking it out.
"And I was getting off on the whole thing. They’re obsessed. They’re in love. They’re having a relationship with the bottle or with heroin or hookers. I’m focused, addicted and obsessed with the relationship, with the high I’m getting from how twisted it is. I never recognized that. That gets into the distinction between substance abuse and addiction."
Luke: "Why did you keep switching voices in your novel Go West?"
Rachel: "Sometimes you do something instinctively and you look back and go ‘Whoa. A therapist would have a field day with that.’ If you come from a background of trauma, which I never wanted to acknowledge, but that’s one of the reasons writing the memoir has been useful. I’ve flayed my psyche in search of some answers to give to other people. Part of it had to do with realizing that childhood trauma was fueling this addiction… My parents weren’t capable of giving that early attachment thing and if you don’t get that, it does something funky to your brain. You don’t develop right. When I would get that high from falling in love, that brought me up to normal. I had a depressive, alienated ongoing state of being. The cool thing is you can rejigger your brain. You can create new grooves."
"What happens when you have that kind of trauma is that you fragment. The first, second and third person was an illustration. It was unconscious but it felt right. I would break into different pieces. I wasn’t integrated."
Luke: "If a genie said, I’ll give you a lifelong happy stable relationship but you have to become Mormon?"
Luke: "Orthodox Jew."