Miranda July makes art out of writers’ emails
Monday morning I got an email from the writer/filmmaker/performance artist Miranda July with the subject line: “AN EMAIL ABOUT MONEY. WE THINK ALONE.” It included a series of forwarded missives from an odd array of people, including actress/director Lena Dunham, athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabar, photographer Catherine Opie and writers Etgar Keret and Sheila Heti.
You too, may have received a similar email if you signed up for July’s new project, “We Think Alone,” a free weekly newsletter commissioned alongside an exhibition for Stockholm museum Magasin 3. It launched Monday, partly an outgrowth of a previous experience promoting her 2011 movie “The Future,” for which she sent fortune-teller readings to subscribers, she told the Telegraph.
Novelist Sheila Heti is among the participants. Heti told Vogue that after interviewing July a while back, she “felt more inspired than I had in years. I thought, ‘I need to talk to this woman once a week for the rest of my life. I have to ask her if she’ll do that for me.’”
Heti’s forwarded email included in the first installment is directed not at July but at fellow novelist Helen Dewitt; it’s a confessional accounting of her frustrations with publishing and personal finance.
“Well, you are asking the wrong person about how to make money,” Heti begins. “I have less than $1000 in the bank and no credit card debt and no savings. I am hoping that my new book will sell in the States and elsewhere in the new year to save me. I recently sold a book to Faber which I wrote with a friend of mine….They bought world rights for $7000, half of which Misha takes. Minus Markus’s commission.”
Keret’s forwarded email addresses an unknown man named Pierre, a potential collaborator who seems to have dropped out of a project: “Although I do not know much about the exact reasons for that I have been publishing books long enough to know that it is a very fluid and ever-changing sphere of creation and that there are countless reasons why such a change could happen.”
He continues, “If the main reason for that change is the writer’s fee which was agreed for Tatia and me, I, personally, would be happy to receive less. If it is for any other reason than it is totally understandable too but I just want to ‘clear my conscience’ and be sure that our collaboration on this potentially beautiful book didn’t end due to money issues.”
Today’s email is the first of 20 weekly installments. As July notes on the project’s website, “I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me emails they’ve sent to other people....How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene ....WE THINK ALONE has given me the excuse to read my friends’ emails and the emails of some people I wish I was friends with and for better or worse it’s changed the way I see all of them.”
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